Audlem hydro funding bid

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Regular readers will recall that two weeks ago (19th May), Audlem Online printed the letter that had been received, via local MP Stephen O'Brien, from the Energy Minister, Mike O'Brien (no relation) to Audlem's request for funding help to build a hydro-electric scheme on the canal in the village. The Minister said:

Dear Stephen

Thank you for your letter of 28 January to Hazel Blears, enclosing correspondence from your constituent, Mike Hill, of Audlem Parish Council, about their pre-feasibility study on hydropower on the Shropshire Union Canal. I am replying as this matter falls within my portfolio and I apologise for the lengthy delay in doing so.

The Low Carbon Buildings Programme Phase 2 provides grants for the installation of small scale on site energy technologies to charities and public sector organisations. However, the technologies covered by this grant are restricted to solar photovoltaics, solar thermal hot water, wind turbines, ground source heat pumps and biomass.

We are already providing support for small scale renewables through the Renewables Obligation (RO). From April 2009. small scale (less than 50 kW) generators will receive 2 Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) for every 1 MWh of renewable energy generated. A small scale generator, depending on the size of their export, could expect to receive 2-4 ROCs per year. Small scale generators can sell their ROCs — with or without the associated electricity — to electricity suppliers, who are obliged to to present a certain number to Ofgem at the end of the year.

Whilst we have introduced changes over the past few years to make it easier for small generators to access support through the Renewables Obligation, we believe that a Feed-in Tariff (FIT) is a more appropriate support mechanism at this scale. We therefore took powers in the Energy Act 2008 to introduce a FIT for generators up to a maximum of 5MW, which we are committed to having in place in April 2010.

We are currently working to develop recommendations on the design of the FIT mechanism, including the tariff levels and the period during which they will apply, the detail of of which we will consult on in summer 2009.

Later this spring, we will launch a new Renewable Energy Strategy, setting out measures to meet our 15% target. As part of the Renewable Energy Strategy, we will bring forward our more detailed proposals on feed-in tariffs for small scale low carbon electricity and incentives for renewable heat. In the light of these decisions, we will be in a position to set out in detail the expected contribution of on-site generation alongside other kinds of electricity and heat generation.
Yours ever
Mike O'Brien

ResponseSeveral readers sent in their interpretations of this letter, notably Andy Smith and Rt Hon Sir Richard Witherby — Dick, although the pretty ripe Anglo-Saxon in the latter's translation of the minister's response tells us Sir Richard may be a non de plume.

The Community Projects team of the Parish Plan are responding to the minister's letter, politely saying that the excess of gobbledegook is an insult to people's intelligence and fails to answer adequately a perfectly sound request for a scheme that is backed by British Waterways.

More to the point, the letter fails to mention the new scheme, announced on 11th March by the Government, that £120m would be invested in forty small-scale British Waterways' hydro schemes, albeit a later clarification said this would be on rivers rather than canals as was originally inferred. This scheme is being funded by the Climate Change department but it seems from the Energy Minister's reply that his department was unaware of this initiative.

New bidGiven the Climate Change department's initiative, a further bid for funding will be made to that department and to other funding bodies. Some 40% of the UK's renewable electricity comes from hydropower but few large schemes have been built since the 1980s. The Audlem scheme is small but would provide power for 40 to 50 homes.

It is ironic to think that more will have been spent on lawyers' fees for the Woore Inquiry into a seven-turbine wind farm — see yesterday's report on its final day — than the entire cost of the proposed Audlem hydro scheme. More on this shortly.