Micropower lobby hits out at new grants programme

A £30 million low-carbon building programme announced by the Department of Trade and Industry has been attacked as a "step backwards" by the renewables industry

The long-awaited funding package ends uncertainty about support for small-scale renewable energy technologies. The existing grant schemes – the Clear Skies Initiative and Major Photovoltaic Demonstration Development Programme – run out in April.

The £30 million, three-year programme aims to take a holistic approach to reducing carbon emissions from buildings by combining small-scale renewables and energy efficiency measures. Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said: “As well as continuing to fund single installations, the programmes will fund large-scale developments in the public and private sectors. Potential beneficiaries could include schools, leisure centres or even remote villages that are not connected to the grid.”

Ian Marchant, Chief Executive of Scottish and Southern Energy, welcomed the package as “another useful step in the right direction.”

However, the renewables industry called the level of funding “a step backwards”. Philip Wolfe, chief executive of the Renewable Power Association, said: “The scale of funding falls well short of what is needed to accelerate uptake of home, community and business renewables. The promise of £10 million per annum for three years is a step backwards from what the Government is doing now. The existing Clear Skies and solar PV initiatives will be worth in excess of £13 million this financial year.”

Jeremy Leggett, chief executive of Solar Century and member of the Government’s Renewables Advisory Board, attacked the “drastic cut in funding”. He accused the DTI of offering a “drip feed” – in contrast to other countries programmes to stimulate “explosive growth” in the micro-renewables markets.