Tuesday, May 22, 2007


You will probably have read in the press that the Chancellor increased grant funding for micro-generation by 50% in March and that the LCBP closed down, also in March, due to over-subscription. It was reported to have run out of monthly funds in the first 90 minutes of March. When it re-launched in early May it was touted as “slashing household funding by 60%”. Peter Wolfe, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association lead a full scale attack on the LCBP saying, “…this scale-back makes a nonsense of the extra funds from the Chancellor and of the Government’s ambition to bring on-site power to the people.”

But hang on a minute. The LCBP closed down in response to a flood of applications for funds to install wind turbines (largely from a well know DIY shed) that had no possibility of producing any meaningful power. In fact the Chief Executive of that well know DIY shed said in February that “4 out of 5 applications for turbines will fail”. My guess is that the ratio is at best ambitious and even if it was true it meant that 80% of the funds available to the LCBP each month were being allocated to projects that had no possibility of going forward. So far as I can see it made eminent sense to suspend the grant scheme and come up with a plan to exclude the DIY shed retailers.

This “scale-back” will actually only apply to electricity micro-generation - PV and wind turbines. Domestic scale PV has never been a good idea on cost alone. And wind turbines in urban areas just don't work. So why should our taxes go to pay for these technologies. Other technologies - solar thermal, heat pumps, biomass - are unaffected by the change in rules. And bear in mind that 77% of the energy used in the home is in the form of heat. The reality is that there will be more funds available for sensible renewable energy technologies. It is probably unlikey that the Government has really got its act together and I expect the DIY sheds will find a way round the problem, but at least it is a step in the right direction.

Perhaps more interestingly the Government has also shorten the period over which grants will be available and they are now scheduled to end in April 2008. It is difficult to see the justification for this especially in the light of other legislation. Home information Packs, which includes the Energy Performance Certificate, have been put back 8 weeks, but will come; Ecohomes and Code for Sustainable Homes are both due to become mandatory in the next 12 months and both require renewable energy. Am I a cynic or is the thinking that the legislation will force renewable energy to be installed, regardless of grant funding?