Microrenewables grants reformed but fail to impress

The Business Department (BERR) announced changes to its microrenewables grant scheme on Monday, but industry and environment groups say the programme remains woefully inadequate

The scheme, known as the Low Carbon Buildings Programme, is to be extended by a year to June 2010, BERR says, because the rate of take up of grants has fallen by 66% since a relaunch last May.

Renewables industry trade bodies had called on BERR to increase the limit on grants per household from £2,500 to £15,000, and for the level of grants for individual technologies to be raised. They argue that without such changes the scheme will not succeed in allocating its funds and the industry will not benefit.

But BERR decided such changes were unnecessary. It says it expects the take-up of grants to rise following the extension of permitted development rights on 1 April, excusing some microrenewables projects from planning consent.

A spokesman also said there was also evidence suggesting householders have been delaying grant applications in the hope that BERR will increase the money available. An end to that uncertainty should therefore increase take-up.

The Renewable Energy Association reacted with shock to the announcement. Head of on-site renewables Andrew Cooper said: “Government has totally ignored the advice of the renewable energy industry and the blindingly obvious evidence of its own statistics. Making a failing programme fail over a longer period is not a solution.”

Friends of the Earth called the changes “woeful”, and added: “You would be forgiven for thinking that the government was actually trying to destroy the small-scale renewables industry in the UK.”

BERR did however increase the grants available for schools and public sector organisations under the programme. These will now be able to apply for grants equivalent to 50% of the cost of all microrenewables projects rather than just for photovoltaics.

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