Suffolk: Huge rise in county’s green energy sector
A huge growth in Suffolk’s independent renewables projects has been recorded as farmers, businesses and public sector organisations seek ways of tackling soaring energy prices.
New research has revealed a 48% year-on-year increase in funding for schemes such as wind turbines and solar installations in the county – on top of projects from the “Big Six” power companies.
The Energy Entrepreneurs report states that nearly £50million has been invested in commercial-scale renewables schemes over recent years, with £2.3m spent on new projects during the last 12 months alone.
East Suffolk projects highlighted by SmartEnergy, the report’s authors, include Adnams’ anaerobic digestion plant in Reydon and two large solar roof arrays at Debach Enterprises in Ipswich and HG Gladwell & Sons in Copdock Mill.
Iain Robertson, SmartestEnergy’s head of generation, has attributed the “huge growth” on “soaring energy bills and growing environmental concerns”.
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Suffolk County Council, which has helped 120 small businesses and 30 schools generate their own energy to reduce running costs, said it recognised the “great opportunities” posed by the green economy.
Rebecca Hopfensperger, who is responsible for environmental matters at the council, added: “Whilst, the multi-billion investment and resulting jobs in off-shore wind generation and the development of new nuclear generation is of vital importance to the county, it is important not to forget the value of generating energy closer to where it is being used.”
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“This reduces the energy lost whilst being transmitted and often means all the financial benefits can be retained locally.”
Ms Hopfensberger conceded, however, that renewable energy generation “can sometimes be a controversial issue” and stressed that decisions should take into account “the specific issues for each proposal”.
John Constable, director at the Renewable Energy Foundation, said he was not surprised by the reported growth, given the “extremely generous” annual subsidies, which he claims are placing a “major burden on consumers”.
“The annual cost of subsidies to investors in renewable electricity will reach about £8bn a year in 2020, with extra grid and system operation costs adding about £5bn a year, a total of £13bn a year in additional cost,” he said.
Nationally, nearly £300m was invested in independent projects in 2013, with farming maintaining its position as the fasted growing sector for independent projects.
Brian Finnerty, communications adviser with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) in East Anglia, said farmland has been used for fuel as well as crops and pasture for hundreds of years.
“It is NFU policy that, alongside food production, some farmers diversify into low-carbon renewable energy services of all kinds,” he said.
“Such developments are often complementary to profitable agriculture and can enhance farm succession, especially where farmers own their own renewable energy assets or otherwise benefit from new income streams.”
In total, the projects operating in Suffolk can now potentially generate around £33.8m worth of electricity a year.