Microrenewables grant scheme slammed shut

Underperforming low-carbon buildings programme falls victim to government spending cuts

Solar panel on house roofThe government unexpectedly closed the low-carbon buildings programme (LCBP), its grant scheme for microrenewables, on Monday.

The LCBP was set up in May 2006 to provide grants to householders, businesses and community groups to install microrenewables. It has been continually dogged by problems (ENDS Report, February 2008).

Earlier this year, the energy and climate department (DECC) closed the scheme to new applications for electricity-generating microrenewables.

This was after it finalised details of its "clean energy cashback scheme", which pays the owners of microrenewables a tariff per kilowatt hour of electricity generated (ENDS Report, February 2010).

However, on Monday it also closed the scheme to new applications for heat-generating micorenewables - 10 months earlier than expected.

DECC said £3m of the LCBP’s budget was remaining and the saving would contribute to the government’s planned £6bn budget cuts.

Support for heat-generating micro-renewables will be available in future under the planned renewable heat incentive (RHI), it added. This will pay owners of equipment a tariff per kilowatt hour of heat generated. However, it is not due to come into force until April 2011 and final tariff levels have still not been confirmed (ENDS Report, February 2010).

The Renewable Energy Association said it was disappointed by the move, especially because details of the RHI are undecided.

"The lack of certainty on the RHI means many of our member's projects are on hold and the industry cannot move forward," said Stuart Pocock, its technical director.

During the four years in which the LCBP operated 16,000 grants were awarded, or 330 per month (see table). According to DECC, the UK needs to install 6,600 microrenewables a month to 2020 to meet its EU renewable energy targets.

 LCBP grants committed to householders

 Technology

 Projects

 Finance (£)

 Air-source heat pump

 964

 864,370

 Biomass boilers

 666

 956,640

 Ground-source heat pump

 908

 1,087,257

 Small-scale hydro

 8

 22,100

 Solar PV

 4,549

 13,441,903

 Solar hot water heaters

 7,993

 3,194,752

 Small wind turbines

 770

 1,768,813

 Total

 15,858

 21,335,835

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