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Rural Community Energy Fund

As a manager at PKF Francis Clark based in a rural area who is interested in funding and sustainability,   my attention was grabbed by the headline “Fund means rural groups can clean up by going green” in the local paper – with the next line in the article being “An MP is urging community groups to go green and cash in.”  I investigated further…

 The Fund

The fund is The Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF), which is a £15 million programme, jointly funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It supports rural communities in England to develop renewable energy projects which provide economic and social benefits to the community.

RCEF provides support to rural communities in two stages:

  • Stage one: grants of up to £40,000 for a feasibility study for a renewable energy project
  • Stage two: grants of up to £100,000 for business development and planning of feasible scheme

Note: it appears the scheme is aimed at feasibility studies etc. as opposed to capital expenditure on an installation.

Who can apply?

The WRAP website defines rural communities and states that the projects that may be supported are ones where the rural community (through an eligible legal entity) are planning a renewable energy project which:

  • will provide a legacy for the future benefit of the community
  • use a proven renewable technology and can demonstrate the support of the wider community

I assume that the WRAP definitions etc. are still valid (as the PR references their site) but note that they do not seem to be administering this element of the funding.

The WRAP website also gives guidance on some of the terminology used:

 

Eligible legal entity

 

· Community interest company (CIC)

· Industrial provident society (IPS) such as co-operatives

· Parish council

· Registered social landlord

· Charity

· Development trust

· Faith group

Eligible technologies

 

· Hydropower

· Solar photo voltaic

· Solar thermal

· Wind turbines

· Ground and air source heat pumps

· Anaerobic digestion, biomass, bio liquids, biogas and bio-CHP

· Low carbon/renewable heat networks

· Gas combined heat and power (CHP) units

Scale of projects

 

· Require planning permission and significant pre-planning development

· Be of a scale to enable repayment of the pre-planning loan plus premium on financial close

· Generate energy for multiple buildings (or export the equivalent to the grid). The fund is not designed for single building installations even when those are community buildings

Eligibility of consultants

 

· A demonstrable track record of experience and/or qualifications in the relevant field

· Professional indemnity insurance of £1,000,000 or more

· Value for money

· A declaration of pecuniary interest

Examples of previous projects

Examples of previous projects helped by RCEF include:

  1. Frome County Council (Somerset): Solar panel installations at Frome Medical Practice and Frome Town FC have stripped 333 tons of CO2 – the equivalent produced by 56 cars every year – out of the local air, as well as helping the practice and football club generate over £68,000 in extra revenue by selling energy back to the grid
  2. Salisbury Community Energy (Wiltshire): RCEF funding has helped eight projects in the historic city ranging from:
  • local school projects
  • possible solar panel installations at the Salisbury Cathedral Cloisters
  • a water wheel with timber paddles hydro project at the city’s Mill in the maltings

More details and how to apply?

 RCEF is being run by five regional Local Energy Hubs. If you would like to register your interest for the scheme, or would like further information, please contact the relevant hub for your area. – see GOV.UK RCEF guidance web page which together with the press release on the GOV.UK site gives more details on the fund.

“A local representative within the relevant Local Energy Hub will be able to provide tailored support on local planning matters.”

I will be sharing the blog with my PKF Francis Clark colleagues who engage with the organisations defined as ‘eligible legal entity’ for them to potentially share with their client base.  Also, I will be bringing the scheme to the attention of my colleagues who specialise in the area in the area of Energy & Infrastructure Advisory. – but I suspect they may be already of it!

By Andrew James

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