Renewable energy fund available for small firms

Michael Hunt

Small companies across the North West delivering renewable energy projects can each gain a slice of a new £4m renewable energy fund.

The Rural Carbon Challenge Fund is providing grants of between £200,000 and £500,000 for small businesses based in Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside.

The fund is believed to be the first of its kind in the country and project delivery partners Envirolink Northwest and the Energy Saving Trust, are now looking for expressions of interest from small firms as well as charities, social-enterprises and community groups before the end of May this year.

Those companies being targeted are those which employ fewer than ten people and have an annual turnover that does not exceed €2m.

Interest is encouraged from groups in rural areas looking to:

  • Install renewable energy systems – especially wind, hydro and wood fuel
  • Set up or expand renewable energy businesses
  • Supply training and information for commissioning, designing, installing and servicing micro-renewable installations, including fitters, plumbers and heating engineers
  • Offer training and information for community groups, social enterprises and charities on developing and delivering projects
  • Conduct feasibility studies

Launched in February this year at the Northwest Climate Change Conference, the fund aims to improve the diversification of the rural economy and develop new partnerships at a community level. The £4m funding has come from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and is being led by the North West Development Agency.

Robert Hough, chair of North West Development Agency, said: "The Rural Carbon Challenge Fund represents the agency's commitment to creating a low carbon regional economy that utilizes the energy sources most appropriate for each locality. By directly supporting social and micro-enterprises at a community level, the agency is demonstrating its tangible approach to change, showing just why the region is a national leader in a move towards a low carbon future."

Lee Allman, head of research and commercialisation at Envirolink Northwest, added: "This is a fantastic opportunity for rural micro-enterprises to make a real difference to where they live and work. There is no other scheme like it in the country, so the successful projects will be pioneers, setting a blueprint for the rest of the UK to follow."

Envirolink Northwest and the Energy Saving Trust are both members of the Northwest Climate Change Partnership, the group of organisations responsible for the delivery of the region's climate change action plan.

Successful applicants will be supported from start to finish by Envirolink Northwest and the Energy Saving Trust. The delivery partners will help applicants forge alliances to submit joint expressions of interest and develop and deliver the outputs of their projects.

A guide for applicants wishing to apply for Rural Carbon Challenge Fund will provide full details of the programme and the application process.

  • For more details contact Lee Allman on 01925 813200 or

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