Head of Sustainable Energy Darren Edwards says there are still plenty of opportunities in the sector for land and property owners trying to make more of their assets and a difference to climate change – despite the challenges they face from political turmoil and loss of government subsidies. The government’s closure of the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) in April has meant there is no longer a subsidy available to smaller scale projects looking to produce low-carbon electricity for the grid.
However, Darren believes there are still opportunities for farmers, landowners and large consumers of electricity to help combat climate change and improve their energy security. He said: “We hear about climate change almost every day in the news, and there are still cost-effective ways to make the move away from fossil fuels despite FiT being ended by the government. For example, the solar PV sector is still quite healthy. A high number of large-scale schemes of 100 acres or more are being submitted around the UK.
Smaller solar schemes are now more marginal but can still be cost-effective despite the absence of FiT subsidy. However, it will be important to monitor the impact Brexit will have on equipment prices, as the price quoted now for panels and inverters is likely to change after we exit the EU. But the Smart Export Guarantee, a new policy scheduled to be introduced in 2020, should encourage those affected by the ending of FiT to think about starting new projects. This guarantee would ensure smaller suppliers are remunerated by large electricity suppliers for the energy they export to the grid, similarly to FiT.”
Other sectors such as wind and using heat pumps are viable in today’s market and into the future. Darren continued: “Offshore wind farms are now cheaper than fossil fuels to generate electricity, and onshore turbines are highly likely to make a comeback with mounting pressure in Westminster to relax planning regulations for wind farms. The government is beginning to realise that further, quite urgent action is required to combat commitments to take coal-fired power stations offline by 2025 and meet rising electricity demands and stringent environmental targets. Poultry farmers are also turning to ground source heat pumps to provide a source of renewable energy for their farms due to their efficient running costs, and air source heat pumps are now commonly being installed as standard in many newbuild homes.”
Farmers and landowners should not be put off from making the leap towards sustainable energy. “Overall, the picture for sustainable energy is not as bleak as it could be despite the uncertainty in politics at the moment,” he added. “We are currently experiencing high demand for project and asset valuations across a wide range of renewable energy technologies, whether they are standalone projects or part of a valuation of a farm or estate often as a key income driver or cost-saver. Every one of us has a responsibility to do our bit to combat climate change, and farmers or landowners should not be afraid of moving into sustainable energy as a form of diversification. The right project can pay dividends not just financially, but environmentally and from and energy security perspective too.”
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