The National Grid estimate that up to 65 percent of electricity generation can be produced locally by 2050. Supporting the development of clean renewable energy generation at community level is beneficial to both the community and the wider environment. Income from renewable projects can provide benefits to the community, including the creation of jobs and the promotion of social cohesion. Considering the above, Community Energy has a significant role to play. It is vital rural communities are enabled to act and are not left behind during the energy transition.
Five Energy Hubs, funded by BEIS (Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) have been set up across England to develop Low Carbon and Renewable Energy Projects. These projects can be delivered at scale to assist in the decarbonisation targets of their respective regions as detailed in the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnerships) Energy Strategies. Part of the responsibility of the Hubs is to deliver the £10 million Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) that has been provided to enable rural communities to take ownership of the energy challenges facing them. The fund provides grants to support communities in rural locations to develop their energy projects and is split into two stages.
• Stage 1 feasibility grants < £40,000
• Stage 2 grants < £100,000 for business development and planning of feasible schemes
The fund covers the high-risk costs of projects, facilitating the development of feasible projects giving local communities the confidence to finance and deliver beneficial renewable and low-carbon energy projects. Principally the Rural Community Energy Fund aims to:
· Support rural communities – by helping them to maximise the income generating potential of renewable energy and putting this to work locally;
· Increase the uptake of community and locally owned renewable energy, to support the Government’s targets for renewable energy and carbon reduction; and
· Promote rural growth, job creation and volunteering opportunities – to enable communities to access the economic benefits associated with renewable energy schemes.
The initial designing of a scheme, understanding the technical feasibility and upfront costs associated with gaining planning permission are considered challenges for the development of community scale projects. The Rural Community Energy Fund will achieve its aims by removing these barriers to investment which are not readily available in the commercial market by providing funding to community organisations establishing the feasibility and development of the business plan for a renewable energy facility.
Community Energy has a critical role to play in the evolution to a decarbonised environment and rural communities in particular must not be left behind. It is important that rural communities are empowered to make decisions about their future energy needs and enabled to make decisions on the provision of their local energy supply. With shrinking public funds, there is also an opportunity for rural communities to use their savings and generated revenue from local energy projects, to keep valuable community assets and services funded.
To contact your local Energy Hub to find out more please go to: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/rural-community-energy-fund
How to apply
RCEF is being run by 5 regional Local Energy Hubs. If you would like to register your interest for the scheme, or would like further information, please contact the relevant hub for your area.
Local Energy Hubs
The hubs are split by Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) regions. Use the following list to see which hubs cover you LEP regions.
· Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
· New Anglia
· Buckinghamshire Thames Valley
· SEMLEP (South East Midlands)
· Coast to Capital
· South East
· Enterprise M3
· Thames Valley Berkshire