Developers Plan To Build New Solar Farms In Essex

We can’t live our modern lives without energy, yet at the same time many people are furious when developers look to build energy generators in the local area. What’s the solution?

Thurrock council recently delayed granting approval on a 46 hectare, 75,000 panel solar farm proposed by BE Renewables Ltd, saying that they first needed to evaluate more flood risk reports. They are considering rejecting the application altogether in order to preserve ‘the flat character of the marshland.’

Meanwhile, Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd are looking to build two further smaller solar farms that’ll power more than 1,500 homes near Hackmans Lane.

It’s essential that we strike the right balance between meeting our energy needs and preserving our countryside.

Why we need more solar panels in Essex

To meet our energy demand we need to produce substantial amounts of energy. Unfortunately, the production of energy through fossil fuels creates dangerous byproducts, known as greenhouse gases. Climate scientists are in unanimous agreement that we need to transition to a low-carbon economy in order to prevent the most serious effects of climate change.

As solar technology develops, it becomes much cheaper to produce solar energy. The Solar Trade Association predicts that the cost of solar energy will be lower than the price of gas energy three to five years time.

Solar panels can be a vital component of our country’s energy mix, but we have to build them somewhere.

How can we minimise the impact of solar panels?

One way to minimise the visual impact of solar panels is to put them in a place that we don’t often use or look at.

Did you know that there is a quarter of a million hectares of completely unused southward-facing space in England with no ecological value whatsoever?

I’m talking about rooftops, of course, specifically factory and warehouse rooftops.

Putting solar panels on just these roofs would go a long way toward meeting the energy needs of homes across the country.

Remember, that’s only industrial roofs we’re talking about and only the southward-facing ones. Not a single blade of grass would be trampled. That’s not to mention public buildings such as schools or hospitals, or the million homes that already have solar panels installed.

The problem is that it is more expensive to put solar panels on roofs than it is to have them freestanding in a field. This means that companies like BE Renewables Ltd will continue to look for cheaper (but greener) places to install their solar panels, and councils like Thurrock will continue to delay.

It’s up to us as a country to decide what our priorities are – then put our money where our mouth is.

We install solar panels and renewable energy technology at competitive prices in Essex and across the South East. Talk to an engineer today on: 01621 827015.

Schools in Essex Seek to PowerUp Classrooms with Solar Panels

Eastwood Primary School and Nursery in Leigh want to install solar panels to power their classrooms. But they need your help…


What’s the idea behind solar panels for schools?


Like most good ideas, it is incredibly simple:

If every family who has a child at Eastwood Primary School puts in just a couple of quid, then the school would be able to install solar panels and make MASSIVE savings on their energy bill.

Not only that, but the school will even earn an income on renewable energy generated thanks to the government’s nifty Feed-In Tariff.

They’ll be able to plough their savings straight back into education, meaning more books and computers for the kids.

Can solar panels help schools to teach children about protecting the environment?

You bet they can!

Schools are where most children learn about how they can protect the environment through recycling and energy efficiency.

But they can also be a place where children can learn about energy efficiency, sustainability and solar power. By installing solar panels and cutting their carbon footprint, schools can be an inspiration for the next generation.

Do you want to know the best part…?

You can help your child’s school to cut their energy bill


The schools need to raise £8,000 by the end of the summer.

That’s a lot of money for a little school, but hardly anything if the cost is shared by the community.

Eastwood Primary has signed up to Solar Schools, which is a crowdfunding platform that has already put solar panels up on more than 20 schools across the country.

The children themselves have done plenty of fundraising already – including a cake sale, writing to local businesses and dressing up as rays of sunshine.

You won’t believe how cute their promotional video is!

We install solar panels on homes, schools and businesses across Essex. Contact us today to find out more.

Are ‘Free’ Solar Panels A Good Idea?

Some companies are offering the free installation of solar panels in exchange for a generous slice of surplus energy pay. But in some ways this deal is too good to be true.

Market researchers have found that demand for solar panels has grown dramatically since 2010. Three months ago we wrote that 50% of homeowners are considering installing solar panels. That number has now risen to 60%. Homeowners considering installing solar panels shouldn’t wait around; the Daily Telegraph has found that right now is the most profitable time to have solar panels installed. Those who want solar panels have two main options, pay for installation themselves, or look out for a company offering ‘free’ solar panels.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but what about free solar panels? What do homeowners stand to gain from a ‘free’ solar panel scheme, and do the benefits outweigh the costs?

What’s the deal with ‘free’ solar panel schemes?


‘Free’ solar panel schemes, or rent-a-roof schemes, are offered by companies that are seeking to make a profit from the Feed-in Tariff (FIT). The FIT is a government policy which guarantees payment in return for generating electricity with renewable energy technology, including solar panels. Some enterprising companies are taking advantage of the FIT by leasing rooftops from homeowners for twenty to twenty-five years, in exchange for installing and maintaining solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on it. The homeowner pays nothing upfront, and benefits from the ‘free’ electricity that is generated, while the company pockets the FIT.

Why is it better to install your own solar panels?

As the Guardian has reported already, free solar panels are good, but buying solar panels yourself is better. This is because the companies that are installing ‘free’ solar panels earn more through the FIT than the homeowner does through the reduced energy bills. Homeowners who can pay for solar panels themselves, and take all of the profits, should do so.


If you can’t afford to pay for your own solar panels it becomes a little more complicated. There’s a good chance that borrowing money through a personal loan and installing your own solar panels is a better financial decision than getting ‘free’ solar panels, though that would depend on the terms of your loan. The government’s ‘Green Deal’ is an excellent example of a loan that would enable you to buy solar panels with a very generous repayment schedule. You could even make money on solar panels by remortgaging your home, though you should check all of the available alternatives thoroughly before doing so.

There is another thing to consider when weighing up whether you should have ‘free’ solar panels installed. To really make the most of the electricity generated by the solar panels, you’ll have to change your lifestyle so that your appliances are working in the middle of the day when the sun is shining. This would benefit stay-at-home mums, retired people and remote workers the most. If this is impractical because you work away from home during the day, you can install a timer on your appliances and set them to work when electricity is cheapest.

Always read the small print when signing over your rooftop


If you are certain that you want to get ‘free’ solar panels, then it is absolutely crucial that you read the small print of any agreement that you sign. The agreement should not:

  • Stipulate that you may not sell your house.
  • Stipulate that you cannot get a loft conversion.
  • Force you to payout if the panels need to be temporarily removed for roof work.

Remember to get legal advice from a trustworthy professional before you sign anything. Also remember that if you sell your house, you’ll need to find a buyer who is comfortable taking on the lease – although they should be at least be happy with the reduced electricity bills. Lastly, double check who will pay for insurance and maintenance. In most cases the company should be responsible. Or, rather than deal with the potential headaches of leasing, take advantage of the competitive pricing here at Complete Renewables and buy your own solar panels.

Check with a professional before leasing your rooftop. Talk to us on 01621 827015 and let us make you a better offer.

Daily Telegraph: “Right Now Is The Best Time To Buy Solar Panels”

Due to falling installation costs, the Telegraph finds that now is the most profitable time to install solar panels.

Did you invest in a “dot com” company like Google early in the 90s? Or were you able to snag a London property back in ‘96 when the price was right? Making the right financial decision at the right time can completely turn your life around, but unfortunately it’s normally difficult to know when the best moment to buy is.

However, a team of experts from the Daily Telegraph have found that right now is the best time to buy solar panels because installation prices are low and government payouts are in a perfect balance. But it’s important to strike while the time is right because installation costs may not continue to fall, and the government is likely to rethink its renewable energy policy at some point after the general election.

Solar Panel Costs Have Fallen £5,000 In The Last Five Years

According to figures from the National Energy Saving Trust, the price of solar panels has fallen considerably in recent years. In June 2012, the average solar panel costed £8,400, that’s £1,500 more than the figure from September 2014, which was £6,800. In fact, it is £5,000 cheaper to buy a solar panel today than it was five years ago. But the rate at which the price of solar panels is falling has slowed. According to experts, homeowners should buy now, because while the technology may get cheaper, there is no guarantee that the price will fall dramatically in the future.

Buy Solar Panels While The FIT Is Still Relatively Generous

Under the Feed-in Tariff (FIT), homeowners are paid for every unit of energy that they generate, which is fixed at the current rate on the day that they signed up for their panels. Currently, the income is guaranteed for twenty years. For example, someone who signed up today would earn just under 14p for every unit of electricity generated by their panels until 2035. According to data from the Daily Telegraph, a typical solar panel set will installed in the summer of 2012 will net the homeowners £226 taxfree annually for the next quarter century – paid directly into their bank accounts by the energy company. Of course, the FIT is only half the equation, the other half is a reduction in energy bills which also helps to make solar panels so lucrative.

However, the government is likely to reassess the FIT later this year. Experts expect the FIT to be cut, because it is reviewed on a three-monthly basis and changed depending on how many solar panels have been installed. With the government on target to reach a million solar panels on British rooftops by the end of this year, it’s fair to say that the FIT payments will fall. This is because the idea behind the FIT is to encourage the solar industry until the technology is cost-effective without a subsidy, a target that the industry is fast approaching. If you think that subsidies for any energy companies are deeply unfair, then you should take a look at the fossil fuel and nuclear industries, which receive an enormous amount more in government subsidies. Unlike the solar industry, the fossil fuel industry shows no signs of being able to survive without a subsidy in the future.

Party politics may also have a role to play in the economics of solar panels. Unlike the Labour party, the Conservatives failed to mention solar panels in their 2015 manifesto. Commentators have noted that this is not a good sign for the solar industry, should the current government be reelected in May.

Is Waiting For Cheaper Solar Panels A Good Idea?

Based on the two points that we have examined, the plateauing of installation costs and the likely drop in FIT payments, it could be dangerous to play the waiting game. Savvy homeowners will order their solar panels now, while FIT payments are secured at a generous level and installation costs are a fraction of what they were only a few years ago. Remember, certain factors can lead to an even bigger return. A south-facing roof in Essex, for instance, gets considerably more sunshine than the national average. It’s also the case that those who are at home during the day and use electricity when the sun is shining will benefit even more.

Buy solar panels now, while the outlook is brightest. Get a quote from Compete Renewables.

What Do Scientists Really Think About Climate Change?

Most people believe that scientists are uncertain whether climate change is caused by human behaviour. This couldn’t be further from the truth.


We don’t have time to learn about every single important issue that affects our daily lives. While we might like to know exactly how the food we eat affects our body, how the laws being passed will affect our society, or how human action is affecting climate change, finding the right answers takes a huge amount of careful research. That’s why it is a sensible idea to trust the opinions of experts who have spent their lives devoted to finding the correct answers.

So what do climate scientists think about climate change?


According to a recent study, 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and caused by human action. That number was reached by an analysis of 12,000 peer reviewed papers. These papers represent an overwhelming body of evidence that tells us that our use of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, are affecting our planet in a way that will have serious repercussions for life as we know it.

What are the consequences of global warming?

The consequences of climate change have already been measured by NASA. They report a loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves. These factors are influencing the way that people are able to live and farm worldwide. But the predicted consequences of climate change have more serious ramifications because scientists are sure that temperatures will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. The most serious of these are the destruction of coastal cities due to rising sea levels and elevated risks of famine due to crop failure.

What can we do in Essex to help prevent climate change?

You might be surprised by the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are emitted by relatively small areas, such as Essex’s own Chelmsford. An average person in Chelmsford has a carbon footprint of roughly 13.36 to 15.51 tonnes of carbon dioxide. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of filling 36 million balloons with carbon per person. Fortunately, there are steps that we can easily take to reduce our carbon footprint.

In order to reduce our carbon footprint to a safe level, we need to move towards a power supply that is made up mainly or entirely of renewable energy technology. Renewable energy technologies, such as solar panels, ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps, are more reliable, more affordable and more effective than ever before. The more widespread use of solar panels in Essex alone would lead to a reduction of thousands of tonnes of carbon in the atmosphere. By adopting renewable energy technologies, we can all reduce our carbon footprints to a level that is safe for ourselves, our children and our planet.

Help prevent climate change now. Talk to a renewable energy specialist: 01621 827015.

Why Everyone is Talking About Storing Solar Energy with Batteries

Solar Battery

Developments in battery technology will mean that solar energy captured in the day can be used at night, enabling solar to become a much more important part of the UK’s energy supply.

The technology behind solar panels is improving everyday. Installations are more cost and energy efficient than they were ten years ago, meaning that homeowners are spending less money to generate more energy with solar panels.

The next step forward for solar technology will be the development of effective solar storage systems. An effective solar storage system will enable homeowners or businesses to save the energy that they have generated through their panels at a later time. This is especially useful as it will allow homeowners to use solar electricity even when the sun isn’t shining, including at night time. This technology would vastly reduce, or perhaps even remove entirely, the homeowner’s need for energy produced by a utility company.

Having a solar battery would enable homeowners to have electricity even if the grid went down. Such a device would be roughly the size of a solar inverter, and could be mounted in your garage or attached to a wall.

What will solar energy batteries look like?

Different companies have different ideas about the future of solar energy batteries. For example, Elon Musk’s company, Tesla Motors, is rumoured to be releasing lithium-ion batteries for home use. These are the same kind of batteries that are used to power the Model S electric car. Many in Silicon Valley see solar storage as the next big thing, given that they will probably be an integral part of any 100% renewable grid. While homeowners will benefit from solar storage, there’s no reason why energy companies too couldn’t also benefit from a way to store cleaner energy and better manage the grid.

How will solar energy storage be monetised?

At least five major US companies, including SolarCity, SunPower, SunEdison and EnerNOC, are planning to extend, revamp or release their solar storage capabilities this year. EnerNOC in particular is planning an ambitious demand-based solar battery system that will supply renewable energy to the part of a building that needs it most. For example, EnerNOC could automatically either turn on the air conditioning or turn off the fans in a building when it is most economical to do so, generating a profit for both EnerNOC and whoever owns the building.

Are there alternatives to storing solar energy by battery?

The answer is resoundingly yes. Currently, 99% of bulk energy is stored by a system called pumped storage hydroelectricity. A pumped storage hydroelectricity site has two reservoirs, one at a higher elevation than the other, that are connected by an enormous steel pipe called a penstock. At night, when electricity prices are low, the water is pumped from the lower lake to the higher lake. During the day, when electricity prices are high, water is sent from the higher elevation to the lower through enormous turbines, generating electricity. Though more energy is spent pumping the electricity than is generated, the system is still profitable due to the change in price that occurs between night and day.

Such a system may not be energy efficient, but it can remain cost efficient when there is an abundance of energy generated at certain times. Germany, for example, produces more energy than is needed through its solar panels during the day, but is able to store some of this energy for later with pumped storage hydroelectric sites. Pumped storage hydroelectric sites are also environmentally friendly, often doubling as nature reserves. Of course, the lack of suitable locations for such a site is one potential obstacle to widespread adoption of this system.

Are you interested in solar energy storage? So are we. Talk to us on 01621 827015.

Solar Panels: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Solar PanelsWhat you need to consider when calculating the value of solar panels.

Calculating a Return on Investment (ROI) for solar panels requires you to look at all the different factors that affect the cost of your solar panels and the gains provided by access to clean energy. We run through the factors that influence how much you stand to gain from solar.

1. How much do solar panel costs?

Solar panels are at their lowest ever prices, and they costs just a fraction of what they did ten or even five years ago. Prices are expected to keep falling through 2016, and there’s reason to believe that the plummet could continue to 2020 (or even beyond). Cheaper solar panels means cheaper solar energy, which is great news for those thinking of going green.

2. How much does it cost to put a solar panel on my roof?

The difficulties of taking a solar panel and mounting it on your roof account for a substantial portion of the cost of installing solar panels. That’s why it’s important to choose a company whose workmanship you can trust, and that will get the job done on time. At Complete Renewables, we offer you a workmanship guarantee of up to ten years to give you peace of mind. Remember to get any overdue work done on your roof before you have the solar panels mounted. Ground-mounted solar panels can be a cheaper option for those with the space.

3. What are the maintenance costs of solar panels?

Another major advantage of solar panels is that they have close to zero maintenance costs. This is because they have no moving parts in the system at all, meaning that there’s very little chance for a problem to develop. Solar panels are also ‘self-cleaning’ so you don’t need to worry about the accumulation of dirt either, though inspecting your solar panels from time to time isn’t a bad idea, so long as you can do so safely. We offer a ten year guarantee on your SMA inverter too, so you don’t have to worry about getting that repaired. Once you’ve figured out the costs of your solar panels, it’s time to balance those against the gains.

4. How efficient are solar panels?

Every few months, new records are broken as solar panel efficiency improves. Solar panels are a young technology, and new approaches to solar are being considered all the time. For those considering solar panels, just a few percentage points more efficiency adds up to a huge amount more energy generated over a solar panels lifetime. That’s because solar panels last so long. LG’s MonoX panels have a twenty five year lifespan, with a guaranteed 80% output by the 25th year. Getting a high quality panel is essential, as the better the quality, the more energy you are able to generate, which generously compensates for the expense of the build.

5. How do conventional energy prices affect the price of solar?

The more expensive conventional energy becomes, the more you save through your solar panels. In the short term, fossil fuels fluctuate in price wildly, but in the long term, there’s only one direction that energy prices in the UK are heading: up. Prices more than doubled between 2002 and 2012, and if they got away with it before, there’s no reason that energy companies won’t try and get away with it again. Families are noticing the squeeze as runaway energy prices have quickly outpaced any rise in wages. Solar panels are a good way to protect yourself from price hikes.

6. How does government policy factor into things?

The government has a number of policies and subsidies in place that affect all areas of energy production,including fossil fuels, and solar is no exception. Domestic home owners can benefit from the Feed-in Tariff, and the Green Deal, while business owners can take advantage of the Commercial Feed-in Tariff. These schemes provide an income for those who are generating renewable energy. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has suggested that commercial rooftop spaces are an ideal site for solar panels, and is expected to push through legislation that will encourage growth in this area.

7. How can ‘green credentials’ benefit my business?

Now more than ever, consumers are choosing to buy products and work with companies that align with their personal values. To understand how important this is, consider the fact that ethical products, such as dolphin friendly tuna, cruelty free eggs and fairtrade bananas, have earned a space on the shelf of every supermarket in the country. Green energy and sustainability are values that the British public are adopting en masse, and no doubt will affect the companies that they choose to do business with. If you are a small business owner, you stand to gain enormous favour with ‘green’ consumers by having solar panels installed.

8. What are the environmental costs of continuing to use fossil fuels?

These days there’s a tendency to measure everything in pounds and pence, and while we shouldn’t neglect our finances, we also shouldn’t lose sight of other important markers, such as health and happiness. The scientists are in agreement: climate change is man-made and the burning of fossil fuels is a significant contributing factor. Fossil fuels seem like a great deal, but that’s only because the brunt of the costs associated with climate change won’t be shouldered by us, but by our children and our grandchildren. It’s hard to put a value on it, but by transitioning to low-carbon technologies, like solar panels, we are investing not only in our present finances, but also in the future health and happiness of the next generation.

Want to know how these factors will affect your specific business? We’re happy to give you a breakdown of your anticipated return. We don’t employ salespeople, so you’ll only be talking to a professional installer on: 01621 827015.

Commercial Solar: What You Need to Know

Solar PowerWhy smart businesses are turning to solar power.

In today’s competitive marketplace, businesses must optimise their productivity, or risk falling behind their competitors. Employees, machinery and even rooftops can be put to work generating profit. Currently, there are countless acres of rooftop spaces allowing solar energy to bounce off untapped. At a time when energy prices are climbing and many businesses must cut costs, only short-term thinking allows such wastefulness to continue.

The tide is beginning to turn. Our retail giants, from Sainsbury’s to Marks and Spencer, are leading the pack with gigantic investments in solar panels on their rooftops. These British businesses are overseeing the construction of some of the largest solar panel systems in the entire continent. Not content to be buffeted by the whims of unpredictable energy companies and the notoriously fickle oil market, they are taking their destiny in their own hands by aiming for energy independence.

Which are better, ground-mounted or roof-mounted solar panels?

The ecological advantages to solar panels placed in fields (ground-mounted solar panels) are undeniable. Biodiversity is able to thrive when 95% of the topsoil is left undisturbed. After a solar panel’s twenty five year life span is complete, the soil underneath will be much more fertile and rich in life than a comparable field subjected to the toils of conventional farming. Farmers are able to co-locate solar panels with smaller livestock, such as sheep, geese and chickens, essentially producing a double ‘crop’ from their fields – both meat and energy. Furthermore, solar panels are the British public’s favourite form of renewable energy, even when ground-mounted, so long as they are located on suitable sites.

However, whilst farmer’s fields do represent suitable sites, we shouldn’t be building solar panels either on areas of outstanding natural beauty or sites of special scientific interest. In order to protect the natural beauty of our environment whilst also meeting our clean energy requirements, the best path incorporates both solar panels mounted on rooftops and those fixed in the ground. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) supports this position, and feels that commercial rooftops represent an excellent position for solar panels.

What’s the return on investment on commercial solar panels?

Installing commercial solar panels makes excellent financial sense. The peak generating hours of solar panels coincide with the work day, which is when the majority of businesses use the most power. This makes rooftop solar panels very efficient and cost-effective, as they are able to power a business directly.

Furthermore, the Commercial Feed-in Tariff means that businesses are paid for every kilowatt of power generated at a set price, regardless of whether that power is used on site or exported to the National Grid. Given the high price of importing energy from the grid, companies that have solar panels installed are therefore incentivised to use the power that they generate onsite. Combining the gains of the Commercial Feed-in Tariff and the savings on energy bills produces a handsome net profit for the typical company over the twenty five year lifetime of the solar panel system, at a very competitive ROI.

The most important thing you need to know about commercial solar

Transitioning to a low-carbon future, protecting our environment and reducing UK dependence on unpredictable and often dictatorial foreign energy companies are all undeniable benefits of solar. But the single most important thing that businesses need to know about commercial solar panels is what effect it will have on their bottom line.

The exact amount that companies are able to save with solar panels varies on a case by case basis. That’s why you should get in touch with Complete Renewables and receive a complete breakdown of the anticipated returns on investment for your solar panel project. The Government’s Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) provides a good framework, which we build on by analysing panel and inverter specifications alongside accurate climate data.

Find out your anticipated Return on Investment for commercial Solar Panels. Talk to a specialist: 01621 827015.

How Renewable Energy Technology Prevents Climate Change

The scientific journal Nature urges policy makers to “keep fossil fuels in the ground” if we are to have any hope of preventing dangerous levels of climate change.

climate change

Photo credit: MattysFlicks

Christophe McGlade and Paul Etkins of University College London have found that we must leave two thirds of our fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we are to have even a 50% chance of reaching our climate change targets. This is because fossil fuels that are extracted from the ground are inevitably burnt, increasing CO2 emissions and contributing to global warming.

What are the consequences of global warming?

Politicians worldwide have agreed that that a 2℃ is the safe limit for global warming. Yet currently we are on track for a 5 to 6℃ temperature rise by the year 2100. According to scientists, the result of a heated planet would be:

The destruction of coastal cities worldwide.
That the entire tropics would be uninhabitable, displacing millions.
The Arctic would be ice-free all year round.

It goes without saying that such a situation would be a disastrous for our children and our grandchildren. In order to prevent climate change on this scale, we must move away from our dependency on fossil fuels and embrace alternative energy technologies.

Does renewable energy technology offer a realistic alternative?

The most common criticism leveled against renewables is that they cannot possibly provide all of the electricity that a country needs. What if I told you that not only is it possible, but in fact it’s already been done.? Iceland, for instance, already sources 100% of its electricity renewably, as do Albania and Burundi. In fact, here’s a list of 45 countries that are already at least 60% powered by renewables.

The truth is that renewable energy technologies are both effective and affordable. Unlike fossil fuels or nuclear energy, solar panels, wind turbines and hydro electrics are safe for humankind, sustainable and socially responsible. If Albania can do it, why can’t we? We must act now to adopt alternative energy consumption and avoid disastrous climate change.

Renewable energy has a vital role to play in protecting the planet from climate change. If you are interested in learning more about solar panel installation in Essex and the South East, please feel free to contact us.

What is Community Energy, and Why is the Government trying to Kill it?

Despite promising us that “we’re all in this together” the government has just passed legislation that effectively kills community energy schemes. It’s time to ask why.
What is community energy?

solar panels

Photo credit: ricketyus

Community energy is produced locally. Due to the fact that it has less distance to travel, there is a reduction in transmission losses, resulting in a drop in energy prices over the long term. Community energy schemes usually favour low carbon and renewable options that avoid polluting the local area. In 2013, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, Ed Davey, pledged his support to community energy schemes, saying that they would bring “power to the people.”

Community energy groups like REPOWER Balcombe and Brixton Energy have installed solar panels that are owned by the community to ensure that power is green, local and affordable. They also ensure that revenues stay within the local area, rather than propping up the ‘big six’ energy companies. The profits generated by Brixton Energy, for example, are given back to local charities
Why does it matter?

The cost of energy is quickly becoming a major concern in many household budgets. Not only that, but 10% of the population is in fuel poverty. This meant that more than one million working households were unable to properly heat their homes this winter.

To make matters worse, many now suspect that the ‘big six’ energy companies are unfairly profiteering by overcharging homeowners. Oil prices have fallen 55% since June, British Gas have delayed their corresponding price reduction until after the worst of the cold winter weather. Yet when oil prices rose, energy bills went up like a rocket. Community energy schemes represent a fairer alternative to the current system, one that puts people over profits.

What just happened?

Community energy schemes were starting up all over the country – until the government quietly changed two important rules.

Firstly, the Financial Court Authority (FCA) changed the rules so that energy co-operatives can not be established if they plan to sell the power that they generate to the national grid. Removing this potential source of revenue makes it so much harder for energy co-operatives to be profitable.

Secondly, George Osborne changed the tax rules so that co-operative energy groups will no longer benefit from two major incentives: the Enterprise Investment Scheme and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme tax relief. Both schemes offer tax reliefs to investors in smaller high-risk companies, but thanks to the legislative changes those investing in energy co-operatives can no longer qualify. Why should this be the case? Why reward the investor who puts his money into a profit-seeking enterprise and penalise the one who invests in a not-for-profit? The most likely answer is that the ‘big six’ don’t want to see their profits hurt by community energy schemes, and are pressuring the government to cut them before they grow.

It’s hard enough to establish a new enterprise at the best of times, but when the government is constantly changing the rules to favour the dominant monopoly, it’s almost hopeless. It’s time to ask: why shouldn’t we have power for the people that’s also generated by the people?

Do you represent an energy co-operative interested in installing solar panels or other renewable energy technologies in your local community? How have the recent changes to legislation affected you?