FiTs cuts endangering manufacturing

This week the UK Government has been accused of putting British manufacturing at risk and putting more pressure on the British farming industry by slashing feed-in tariff payments for small and medium scale wind turbine developments by 20%.

The 20% reduction to the popular and successful feed-in tariff scheme is due to come into effect on the 1st of April this year. This deadline has created a rush within the renewable energy industry to complete the installations of wind turbines, solar panels and anaerobic digestion plants before the end of March.

Prominent members of the UK’s solar panel industry have voiced confidence that the industry is well placed to cope with the 3.5% cut being introduced to the feed-in tariff payments for  domestically generated solar energy. However the far more severe cuts being introduced to the UK’s small and medium scale onshore wind industry are set to be far more problematic.

Many within the onshore wind industry and the wider renewable energy industry have voiced concerns that the severity of the soon to be implemented cuts will create a number of issues. Firstly, the cut runs of risk of provoking capital flight as investment in onshore wind energy is driven overseas. Secondly the cuts will create a barrier to smaller investors who are far more likely to invest their money in smaller scale wind energy developments. Lastly the cut threatens to negatively impact upon British manufacturing at a time when all the rhetoric is about encouraging, supporting and enabling the country’s manufacturing base.

It should be noted that it is not just the cut to the feed-in tariff itself which has raised concerns. The banding which determines what level of feed-in tariff a development receives (based upon the developments capacity) is also being changed. Up until last year, turbines of a scale up to 15kW received higher feed-in tariff payments than developments of a larger capacity. This fact helped to make small scale wind turbines an attractive investment to community groups, farmers and public concerns such as schools who are looking to reduce energy costs.

However under the new rules sub 15kW developments will now be placed in the same band as developments with a capacity of up to 100kW. This represents a significant leap. Some have suggested that this will encourage investment in the larger schemes which the government may now find more favourable however it comes at the cost to deterring smaller investors and community groups. This was point made by Gaia Wind’s Chief Executive Johnnie Andringa:

“There are a lot of small companies working in this area and the feed-in tariff helps make the product more affordable but now smaller turbines are at a disadvantage because they are in the same band as turbines ten times their size.

“It will be more difficult for small farmers or crofters to put up a small turbine and generate their own electricity”.

Keith Parslow, Chief Executive of Leicester-based small turbine manufacturer Evance made a similar point:

“You have to put in 20 of our 5kW machines for every one of the 100kW machines installed, so it really is unfair for the smaller user, it’s driven people to make do this as more of an investment… and it means our typical prospective customers are now unsure whether they can justify the investment, unless they live in an area of really high wind speeds.”

Evance is now known to be focusing its attention on the export markets to mainland Europe and the Far East.

The impact of the feed-in tariff cuts on the small and medium scale wind market is particularly unfortunate given that the majority of wind turbines manufactured within the UK fall into this scale. It is far more common for developers of  larger scale projects to import their turbines from foreign markets than it is for developers who are working on a smaller scale. At a time when so much political emphasis is placed upon supporting the British manufacturing sector it is regrettable that a government policy would work against the interests of British manufacturers. A point underlined by turbine manufacturer Ampair’s Managing Director David Sharman:

“It’s certainly going to decrease the market for small wind, which is why we now sell around two-thirds of our products overseas. We just don’t trust the British government.

“It’s a wonderful own goal by the British government to cut the tariff and damage the industry. We told them that it would harm manufacturing and they just didn’t care.”

Industry trade group RenewableUK also flagged up the potential dangers to the UK Government. Deputy Chief-Executive Maf Smith commenting:

“The UK’s world-leading small wind sector has already seen reductions of domestic installations due to the removal of the different tariff brackets for all turbines under 100kW. Small wind is a UK manufacturing success story now under huge pressure, and the thousands of farmers and small businesses up and down the country who want to generate their own power face disappointment if these changes go ahead.”

The UK Government has attempted to calm the situation. A DECC spokeswoman emphasised the feeling that the UK’ small and medium scale wind market is well placed to overcome any hurdles presented by the reduction to the feed-in tariff.

“The changes reflect the need to drive cost reductions in the sector, following significant deployment. The FITs scheme continues to support the deployment of small scale wind turbines. The number of degression bands was minimised when the degression mechanism was implemented to reduce distortions within sectors.

“Onshore wind is a major success story for the UK which brings economic benefit to our shores, supports thousands of skilled jobs and is an important contributor to our energy mix.

“As costs come down for more established technologies like solar and onshore wind, it is right that the level of public support is reduced to protect consumers.

“In line with new EU guidelines on competition and to deliver best value for money to the taxpayer, the government is considering introducing competition between more established large-scale low carbon technologies and will make a decision on this in 2014.”

We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) would stress that we feel well paced to handle the feed-in tariff reduction. Many of our tubine developments are already installed. Many more have secured the higher feed-in tariff rate as developments were pre-accredited with the regulators to ensure that there would be no mad rush to complete developments over the next two months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Good 2013

2013 was a good year for Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy).

A good year for us and a good year for others. For the landowners and farmers across Scotland that we are gaining planning approval for, allowing them access to alternative revenue streams with the potential to secure their businesses. For the community groups and charities which we are supporting across Scotland, helping them to continue the much needed good work which they do. A good year for Scotland’s energy ambitions. The country took a step closer to the ambitious renewable energy targets which are to be met by the end of the decade. We at ILI (RE) were delighted to play our part in helping the nation to achieving these ambitions and look forward to contributing further.

At present ILI (RE) has gained over seventy seperate planning permissions for small and medium scale wind turbine developments in Local Authority Areas across the country. Many more planning applications are currently live and being considered by planning departments. The numerous small scale developments in which we are engaged allow far more people to benefit from renewable energy than the larger scale wind farms that only large scale developers and landowners allow. The revenue created by even a small scale 225wK can mean all the difference for a farmer or landowner. Having spoke to many within Scotland’s farming industry and the farmers and landowners in which we enter into partnership we at ILI (RE) understand the pressures which Scottish farming is facing. For many the revenue from a turbine means being able to reinvest in their businesses; carrying out much needed maintenance work, purchasing new equipment, hiring more staff, keeping pace with ever rising costs, improving yields and efficiency, even simply keeping a traditional family business within a family.

Additionally given the scale and spread of our developments ILI (RE) has been able to offer people innovative solutions to grid issues which had previously ruled out the possibility of development. Whether it be the use of off-grid storage or demand, the creation of new grid links  or the linking together of geographically close developments we at ILI (RE) have been able to spread the benefits of renewable energy generation and government feed-in tariffs far wider than would have been possible from the development of large scale wind farms.

It should be remembered that all of ILI (RE)’s completed developments offer a community benefit to the area in which it is located. A portion of the revenue generated from all of our turbines will be allocated to either a Local Authority Area’s Community Benefit Fund or to a designated local charity. Not all Local Authority Areas in Scotland require a Community Benefit as part of a renewable energy development application. Despite this such a benefit is a part of all of our applications regardless of their location. In areas such as South Lanarkshire, where the council has established a Community Benefit Fund, we contribute to the pot; allowing Local Authorities to target funding where needed. In areas such as East Renfrewshire, which does not have a central fund, we have established a partnership with a local charity working within the community. In this case we have entered in partnership with East Renfrewshire Good Causes.

East Renfrewshire Good Causes (ERGC) was established in 2007. From that time the charity has helped over 1000 people within the East Renfrewshire area; working to improve their quality of life. Whether it be by providing educational support, procuring medical equipment or organising days out ERGC has provided vital support to many vulnerable people. It is point of pride that ILI (RE) has been able to support, not just the vital work done by ERGC, charities and community groups across Scotland. The community benefit funding from 70 planning approvals alone represents potentially almost £2 million worth of charity funding over the 20 year life span of our turbines. We would stress that this figure will increase as more of our potential developments gain planning approval.

Scotland and the UK moved a step closer to achieving their renewable energy generation targets in 2013. We at ILI (RE) were proud that our developments helped contribute to this progress. Just we will be proud to help move us closer still to these targets in 2014. More electricity being generated from renewable sources such as onshore wind means; importing less fossil fuels, less exposure to volatile markets, cheaper energy bills, reduced carbon emissions and the creation of more jobs. Renewable energy was one the UK’s fastest growing industries in 2013.

The potential of onshore wind is beginning to be seen. As has been discussed in this blog previously new UK wind generation records are being set with increasing regularity. But this month it was Denmark that fully demonstrated the potential of wind energy to the world. The month of December saw several new and startling wind generation records being set in Denmark. Firstly, 54.8% of electricity demand for the month of December was met by wind energy. Over half of the entire country’s electricity usage for the entire month! In December 2012 33.5% of electricity demand was met by wind energy. Secondly, on the 21st of December 102% of electricity demand was met by wind power. A surplus of energy even when every other single electricity source is discounted. Lastly, over the course of the entire year 33.2% of electricity demand was met by wind power.This in a year noted by network operator Energinet.dk as being not particularly windy. From all these new records then we can see the role which wind energy can play in meeting a nations electricity needs. A statement from an Energinet.dk spokesman noted that:

“The records do not only apply to Denmark. They are also world records. Because no other countries have as large a wind power capacity in proportion to the size of the electricity consumption, as we do in Denmark.”

It is our hope that the good news continues to come in, not just for ourselves but for all of our landowners.

 

Survey reveals farming industry’s hunger for renewables

This week industry trade body RenewableUK held a lunch event in partnership with the River Cottage food business and the online community Energyshare. The lunch was held on the Devon/Cornwall border. The Great British Wind Meal was used as an opportunity to publicize several recent items of research in regards the relationship between British farming and renewable energy.

Several of the speakers at the event suggested that a greater uptake of renewable energy generation by British farmers would help the United Kingdom to meet both it’s food and energy needs. One speaker suggested that as well as helping the UK to meet it’s renewable energy targets farmers stand to benefit from on-site generation by it allowing them to reduce the costs involved in producing food and also ensuring that their businesses are in a better position to navigate through at troubled economic climate for the farming industry.

Speaking at the event, Forum for the Future’s principal sustainability adviser Nicky Conway remarked:

“There are about 300,000 farms in the UK so if you are going to have renewable energy generation at any level of scale, farmers have the land and the capacity to install those renewable energy schemes.

“Therefore they should be a target audience because they have the land and the resources to produce the energy”.

Ms Conway went on to state that Forum for the Future was attempting to increase the uptake of renewable energy generation developments on UK farms:

“The specific way that we would like to do that is to try and build a common evidence-based vision, and [highlight] why can farm-based energy can play such a critical role in the UK’s energy system rather than being a niche activity.

“The other thing we want to do is unlock some of the key barriers. Things like grid connections and accessing finance, particularly for lower income farmers.”

Farm owner Robin Hanbury-Tenison argued against claims that renewable energy developments take land away from food production – giving the example of his own solar panels:

“A lot of people say that PV panels are taking up land, wasting land but far from it if it is done properly.

“My sheep prefer being under or around the panels than being in the open fields. The grass grows better, they also have lovely shelter and they lamb underneath them.”

Attendees at the lunch also heard the results of a new survey carried out in partnership between Nottingham Trent University, the Farmers Weekly and Forum for the Future. The survey was carried out this summer and asked nearly 700 UK farmers for their opinions on farm-based renewable energy. Interestingly 38% of the farmers surveyed revealed that they were already generating renewable energy on their farms with the two most popular technology types being solar PV and wind energy. The majority of those generating electricity from wind energy are feeding at least some proportion of their output into the National Grid. The average capacity of these developments was 176kW however it should be noted that larger scale developments are perfectly possible given the right site and the expertise and experience needed to navigate through the planning process. Furthermore 61% of those who are not already generating renewable energy specified that they would be likely to do so over the next five years. Despite that fact that the majority of those surveyed are already generating renewable energy 76% of respondents did not believe that the full potential of farm-based renewable energy generation was being realized.

The survey was also used to explore farmers perceptions  on what the benefits of renewable energy generation are. 76% of those surveyed (the most-widely held opinion) felt that farm-based renewable energy generation helped to reduce the costs of the other parts of a farm business. 73% felt that renewables provided a safe-means of generating non-fossil fuel energy. 72% felt farm-based renewables helped to contribute to the country’s energy security. 71% expressed the opinion that renewable energy generation provided a good return on investment compared to more traditional farming activities and 65% felt renewable generation helped to combat climate change by reducing a farms carbon footprint. Interestingly 81% of participants felt that family, neighbours and other farmers would approve of a decision to invest in renewable energy generation. These results would suggest that there is a widespread belief amongst the UK’s farming community that renewable energy generation represents a positive investment for the industry.

The farming industry’s opinion on the barriers to farm-based renewable energy generation were also explored in the survey with five problems emerging as the crucial barriers to completing a renewable energy development. 84% of those surveyed identified the major stumbling block as the high investment costs involved. 53% felt that red tape represented a major barrier to completing a development.52% felt the planning process to be cumbersome and costly. 45% felt that local opposition could be a stumbling block and 39% raised the issue of accessing a bank loan. At this point we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) would like to state that have the expertise and experience to address all these issues. We require no investment from the farmers we enter into partnership with, we have vast experience of dealing with the planning process at both a national and local level and all the red tape that may be involved. We always take steps to involve and liaise with local communities through programs such as our Community Contribution and we do not need bank loans to fund our developments.

It was left to broadcaster and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, responsible for the Wind Meal’s menu, to give the final word on the role that British farmers have to play in renewable energy generation, emphasising that wind energy can be regarded as another crop:

“All farmers are in the business of renewable energy – that’s what food is,

“Farmers produce food, we consume that food for our energy, and for farmers to stay in business it has to be a renewable business.

“The idea of farmers diversifying into ‘pure energy’ as well as food energy makes a whole lot of sense.

“We know that wind is going to be an important part of our energy into the future.

“Who has got best access to wind in the country? Our farmers.”

We at Intelligent Land Investments are very pleased to be playing our part in bringing the benefits of renewable energy generation to as many farmers as possible.