Local MP Sarah Newton urges local groups to apply for share of £10 million to go green

Rural sports clubs, schools and churches could power their buildings with clean electricity, cut their bills and reduce emissions thanks to a £10 million government fund.

Local MP Sarah Newton is urging local groups to apply to the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF). 

Commenting, Sarah said: “I would like to see local organisations benefit from this funding. In other parts of the country it’s making a real difference. A good example is a project in Frome which included Frome GPs, Frome Town FC, installed over 200 kW of solar capacity - enough to power 2,000 light bulbs and strip 333 tons of CO2 being pumped into the local environment. It also generated almost £70,000 for the local community by selling extra solar electricity back to the grid.”

New community projects across England are now being encouraged to apply for feasibility grants of up to £40,000 for green initiatives, including solar battery storage, wind, hydro and geothermal heat projects. Viable proposals will also be considered for further grants of up to £100,000 for business development and planning applications, as the government hopes to increase energy self-sufficiency in rural communities and boost jobs in green technology.

It comes just a week after the government became one of the first major economies to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore said: “It will take all corners of the country and sections of society to help us to tackle climate change on our path to becoming a net zero emissions economy and communities are at the heart of our mission for a greener planet. This £10 million fund can help sports clubs, churches and schools not only save money and reduce emissions by creating their own clean energy but also make money by selling it back to the grid.”

The RCEF has already supported 152 community renewable energy projects in rural areas helping generate around 105,000 kW of electricity – enough to power the equivalent of nearly 30,000 homes. It’s also helped generate thousands of pounds for community coffers thanks to selling electricity back to the grid.

In Wiltshire, RCEF funding has helped not-for profit Salisbury Community Energy develop renewable energy projects at 8 sites across the city, including: exploring the possibility of installing solar panels on the roof of the cloisters of Salisbury cathedral and a feasibility study into a hydro project at the Mill in the Maltings.

Alison Craig, Development Manager at Salisbury Community Energy, said: “Climate change is going to hit us all hard. The flood risk to Salisbury has, according to the most recent Environment Agency data, risen significantly. This makes the move towards making Salisbury zero carbon all the more important. These grants have enabled us to take the crucial first steps in creating green community assets for our historic city.”

The RCEF funding, which is to be managed by 5 Local Energy Hubs around England, is designed to catapult rural areas into the ‘clean growth’ revolution, helping people living outside urban areas benefit from the income-generating potential of renewable energy.

Applications for the new scheme will be managed by 5 regional Local Energy hubs across the UK and hosted by a local authority in each area.

Jon Rattenbury is the SW Energy Hub Programme Manager and can be contacted on SWenergyhub@westofengland-ca.gov.uk.