Being buried deep in the renewable energy development business I have been quite used to the ebb and flow of Gov policies, reactive changes and such like. It comes with the territory. The UK is known for this wobbly support. But in the last 3 years I have spent a lot of my own time helping and being part of community energy groups trying to do the right thing in order that us ‘hard working people’ in the ‘big society’ can ‘get on our bikes’ and steer our own path into sustainability. In this part of Snowdonia it means looking at energy generation from hydro. Hydro generation is a long slog from thought to deed at the best of times and for a community group starting from nothing the path is even longer. I wonder if one of the big six energy management boards have sat down to decide if they will have to put their own money on the table this year to pay the £60 for o the accountant to sign off the accounts so that we could lodge them with the FCA (which were zero at the time). this is where many of the groups start from and then takes quite a while to build a head of steam. the head of steam is then dully built, thousands of hours of volunteer time (with many an evening deciding legal, financial, technical, social, ecological, community, fiscal.. business planning aspect) just to re-iterate its taken thousands of hours, tens of thousands of pounds of development money to get you to what is called shovel ready project (before we get to the simple bit of building something)
The recent onslaught of changes is having a deep impact on these community groups. We (the groups) had all started on a three-year journey knowing (we thought) the route to completion and recognised it would be bloody hard work with many risks on the way. These volunteers are getting no financial gain what so ever (no end of year bonus, performance payment, living wage and so on… remember the £60) But the changes which have happened in quick succession lately have had such a deep demoralising effect that it is very difficult for many to trudge out on a winters night to again invest their resources into something which has now even less chance of success. Hopefully the FIT consultation and time will recognise that the true value of community generation is more than simple Kwh and £ but is a strong force for good in bringing people together to help others in the long-term. The Social NPV from community energy must be incredibly high but because we only measure cash is missed every-time by the accountants
If these FIT cuts come through as proposed and the changes in pre accreditation stick then the impact will be felt by developers but more so by community groups… but the community groups are not a number of social enterprises but as I know them. Alun, Gavin, Emlyn, Jacqui, Gwyndaf, Ifor, Dafydd, Mel, Griff, George, Charlie, Paula, Griff, Dafydd W, Robin, Jenny, Tim, Menna, Danny, Gren’, Alun J, Paul… the Gov need to be careful in terms of stopping one type of development of not having (they are) unintended consequences on others (babies and bath water come to mind). these projects are incredible value for Gov money. Just measure them in the right way!
The five I work with
- YnNi Padarn Peris Cyf community hydro is hopping to get into pre accreditation with 3 days spare #stress!
- Ogwen community hydro will miss out on pre accreditation by 18 days. (after years of work) The ensuing heavy FIT cuts and uncertainty from digression will mean a non starter
- Two other community hydros I work with have now stalled completely (feasibility funding has been spent…. they are feasible!)
- Anafon hydro being built thank good ness
As the saying goes. Measure a hundred times and then cut once. Before launching into FIT cuts please measure the impact and its more than simple cash