Policy ‘should encourage smaller scale renewable energy’

The rapid agenda and legislation which is being set by the government for carbon reduction and sustainable energy solutions is not yet being matched by reliable and fundable technology, writes Bob Fletcher of Fletcher-Rae Architects.

With the sudden escalation in energy costs combined with the decommissioning of key parts of our existing power generation infrastructure, we are heading for a major energy shortfall post 2015.

We need policy stability in offering renewable incentives, so that people may fund and develop their plans with confidence.

Perhaps less of a rush to wind power on mega sites at great distances from the demand which feed sporadically to a National Grid, which is unable to cope with this irregular renewable supply. Unless there is a rapid and major investment in the National Grid, the system will not be able to cope. A particular case recently of a Scottish wind farm were paid over £300,000 to turn off their turbines in compensation for the Grid not being able to receive the electricity, illustrates this point perfectly.

Our philosophy is simple; the maximum national benefits will be gained by a smaller scale site approach creating high volumes of renewable energy distributed more evenly across the UK. It is disappointing that the Government has set the bar so high in not supporting smaller scale energy generators which would have produced the greatest beneficial impact.

Certain reliable technologies do exist, smaller scale allows a drive closer into urban mixed use environments benefitting from the secondary heat produced, representing up to 50% of the energy created, which is currently wasted. This is beyond the building envelope, generating your own energy and sharing the benefit with owners, occupiers and the National Grid. In terms of a local impact, they are far less controversial.

The key is making the right choices for each individual project.

There are a lot of unproven technologies being pedaled in the market place and what is concerning is the degree of commitment funds and developers are currently making to unproven technology solutions without security of feedstock and pursuing planning applications based on these future assumptions.

There is no doubt that over the next three to five years, the market for site-wide sustainable energy solutions will develop and mature. The big question is that, beyond the security of a 25-30 year municipal waste contract supplying feedstock, the rewards become far more tenuous and risk increases. Given full consideration of individual locations, viable and fundable solutions can be found which would be attractive to an operator and provide genuine return and community benefits fully aligned with Government policy.

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