High hopes for clean-energy plan

Small-scale renewable-electricity schemes could generate more than twice the output of Sizewell B nuclear power station by 2020 if government ministers improved the proposed Clean Energy Cash-Back scheme (or feed-in tariff) due to be launched in April next year, according to Friends of the Earth.

The environmental campaign group used figures obtained from the government to show that introducing a more ambitious scheme than that currently proposed would only add an average £2.37 per year on to household electricity bills over the next four years – just £1.20 a year more than the government is already proposing to add to fund the scheme.

The figures have been published as 30 organisations and businesses – including Friends of the Earth, the Renewable Energy Association, The TUC, British Retail Consortium, the Co-operative Group, Country Land and Business Association (CLA), the Federation of Small Businesses, Unison and WWF – have written to MPs urging them to support an Early Day Motion tabled by Alan Simpson MP calling for a much greater level of ambition for small-scale renewable-electricity generation than the government scheme currently proposes.

Friends of the Earth, which led the campaign to introduce a feed-in tariff alongside the Renewable Energy Association, has criticised the proposed scheme as lacking ambition because it only aims to generate two per cent of UK electricity from small-scale renewable technologies by 2020.

The group accuses the government of ignoring the results of research commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)that shows setting the scheme to deliver a 10 per cent annual return on investment (instead of the five to eight per cent currently proposed) for communities, businesses and households that install renewable-electricity technologies, would cut UK emissions by 9.9 million tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2020.

Friends of the Earth is calling for the proposed tariffs to be increased to deliver an annual 10 per cent return for all small-scale green-energy schemes installed during the first three years of the scheme (the payment system is due to be reviewed in 2013).

After this, payments could be revised for new schemes as other measures are introduced, the UK renewable-energy market grows and global fossil-fuel energy prices rise – while maintaining the higher level of overall ambition.