Changes to feed-in tariffs and regulatory regimes are some of the barriers to progress facing community energy in Yorkshire and the Humber.
In a report published in December 2019, Community Energy England and Centre for Regional Economic Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University sought to examine the opportunities and challenges facing the community energy sector in the region, as well as improved regional coordination. Catalysing People-powered Energy in Yorkshire and the Humber noted that while nine community energy projects across the region have had “significant achievements”, significant barriers to progress remain. Limited capacity of volunteers and specialist staff, difficulties in achieving economies of scale, lack of access to influential politicians or funders, difficulties in accessing suitable sites, limited support for innovation and localised difficulties in grid connection were all cited as issues.
Furthermore, the report explained that institutional challenges – including less voluntary sector activity per capita than other regions and a lack of policy support – have only served to exacerbate these barriers.
The report set out a series of policy actions in a bid to overcome these barriers, recommending that community energy is integrated into the planning system and supported by Local Plans. This would see local authorities map out opportunities for renewable energy development while community based renewable energy is encouraged in new housing developments and community buildings. It also stressed procurement rules should be examined with barriers to community energy schemes removed.
Elsewhere, it recommended business rate relief for community energy investment; a recyclable loan fund is established to invest in community energy projects in Yorkshire and the Humber, with repayments used to fund new projects; and the creation of a regional fund to support grid connection in areas where costs have proven prohibitive. It explained that promising projects have been stifled due to the cost of network connection. A fund, administered through the regional Energy Hub and capitalised with contributions from BEIS and Local Enterprise Partnerships, could overcome this.