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Cornwall, UK: Local authority loans for community renewables

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In the UK, awareness of climate change and its relation to energy supply is at an all-time high. The current technological and legislative context offers significant financial incentives for the expansion of renewable energy systems. This has created an attractive environment for shared investment in and ownership of renewable energy technologies.

In April 2013 ManagEnergy reported on a new revolving loan fund for community renewable energy projects launched by Cornwall Council (UK). The loan fund, worth EUR 1.2 million, is aimed at community groups to help build renewable energy installations in their local area. At the heart of this model is the principle that the benefits of energy should be localised, and that strong links between communities and energy should be forged to increase awareness and encourage community benefit through the way that agreements are structured. As such, only projects that could evidence strong community benefit were accepted. The Council’s Green Cornwall Programme has made a loan facility available to The Low Carbon Society (TLCS), who is working in partnership with Kabin and Community Energy Plus. This is the first loan facility of its kind for a local authority.

Two projects have applied for the revolving loan fund, former ManagEnergy runner up Community Power Cornwall (CPC) and Helford Energy Society (HES). The first application is comprised of three projects while the second is a stand-alone project. Cornwall Council intends to launch another round of funding soon.

The first applicant Community Power Cornwall (CPC) is a co-operative that enables local communities to own and benefit from renewable technologies. All revenue generated will be reinvested locally. The common ownership model created by CPC contributes to a diverse, sustainable and secure energy supply infrastructure, under community control and for community benefit. A portfolio of three projects has been proposed by CPC for the fund application:

Project 1:

  • 2 x 80KW wind turbine in Cornwall
  • Expected annual output 2011-2012 360,000KWh
  • Expected annual carbon saving 2011-2012 188t

Project 2:

  • 1 x 10KW wind turbine in Cornwall
  • Expected annual output 30,000KWh
  • Expected annual carbon saving 15.6t

Project 3:

  • 1 x 100KW wind turbine in Cornwall
  • Expected annual output 275,000KWh
  • Expected annual carbon saving 144t

In 2012 Community Power Cornwall was shortlisted for the ManagEnergy Local Energy Action Award from the European Union. The co-operative was one of only three innovative finalists out of a record 64 submissions from 23 countries.

Helford Energy Society (HES), the second applicant, is a community energy co-operative that was established to benefit people around the Helford river area.

This project will be the first installation for this society. It will secure an income to develop further sites for renewable energy directed by local people. HES is working with Fal Energy Partnership (FEP), Kabin and R-ECO.

Over five years ago HES were granted planning permission for a 10kW wind turbine in the Helford area. The turbine is to be held in common ownership. This year an application was granted to extend the planning permission for a further 3 years, however it stipulated that the height of the turbine must be reduced. HES is will now install at a 3.5kW wind turbine.

These cooperative projects offer inspiration to other communities that share similar characteristics to Cornwall such as rural location, not connected to a gas grid, have poorly insulated buildings and wish to reduce carbon emissions while securing their energy supply through investment in the local economy. Cornwall Council, through launching this initiative, was determined to reinforce the principle of local benefit and only applications from fully constituted Cornish based community groups were eligible. Through embedding this principle, it is hoped that communities will continue to see the benefit of renewable energy and that a less dependent relationship with energy can be fostered.

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