If you’ve thought about investing in community energy in the past and never quite got round to it, this is the week to bite the bullet. There’s just one week left for many community energy projects to get funding, and after this latest round, there may well be far fewer and less attractive opportunities for investment.
Why? Because as if blocking onshore wind and cutting the feed-in tariff weren’t enough, the government has recently announced that community energy will no longer be eligible for two key tax breaks. Building on the Enterprise Investment Scheme, George Osborne brought in the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme in 2o11, designed to encourage investment in small start-ups. Investors get tax relief on any funds spent investing in a qualifying small business. Many community energy projects were designed to be eligible, and used the scheme to attract bigger investors.
For no apparent reason, the government has now announced that as of the end of November, community energy projects will no longer be able to take part. No reason has been given, and very little warning. Those projects planning the use the scheme have been scrabbling to get their funding together before the deadline. Others, including my favourite energy project in Balcombe, have had to be scrapped at the last minute.
Everybody wins with community energy. Renewable energy capacity is built and carbon emissions fall. Consumers get cheaper bills, jobs are created, and profits return to the local economy rather than shareholder corporations. I find it bizarre that as a nation we are desperately courting China to fund our nuclear power stations, while ordinary people are trying to take responsibility for their own energy and being denied the opportunity. I can’t think of any good reason to undermine community energy. But since the move comes from the Treasury rather than the Department of Energy and Climate Change, I think we know who’s behind it.
Anyway, the good folks at 10:10 have put together a community energy funding hub, Energy Dash, to help groups get their funding before the time runs out. There are 29 projects to choose from at the moment, and just a few days left to get involved.