Britain’s Community Energy Plan Proposes Doubling FIT Cap

By Paul Gipe

Britain’s Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has released its long-awaited Community Energy Plan.

The 108-page report is long on high-sounding support for community power in Scotland, England, and Wales, but short on specific actions that will likely make a big difference in who owns renewable generating capacity in Great Britain.

There are no proposals, for example, that would lead to a wholesale restructuring of the renewables industry like that seen in Germany’s Bürgerwind movement, though the report does give both Germany and Denmark a nod in their cases studies.

In contrast to Germany where fully half of all renewable generating capacity is citizen owned in some form, there’s only 60 MW of community owned renewables in Britain.

As in many countries where community ownership is a threat to powerful incumbents, DECC resorts to a classic maneuver of throwing money at various aspects of the “problem”. If fully funded, this will certainly keep many NGOs occupied trying to get something done instead of demonstrating at Westminster.

The only concrete proposal is DECC’s statement that “We will be consulting in spring 2014 on doubling the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) maximum capacity ceiling from 5MW to 10MW for community projects.” Maybe, as in poker, this is just an opening gambit and they would be willing to go higher, say 20 MW or—god forbid—to 50 MW if there’s enough of an outcry. Considering the current political climate, however, this may be the limit they are willing to consider.

Raising the FIT ceiling from 5 MW to 10 MW in reality means allowing four large wind turbines instead of only two. That’s not much of an improvement. It certainly won’t rock the energy boat.

In the Danish and German cases studies cited in the report, DECC noted the importance of the feed-in tariff programs and standardized rules for interconnection.

The good news is that DECC acknowledges that there’s a lot of room for growth of community power in Britain.