CHURCHES that install solar panels stand to lose thousands of
pounds in revenue, under government plans that exclude them from
the definition of "community energy projects".
The Department of Energy and Climate Change is making changes to
the Feed-in Tariff (FiT), which was introduced in 2010 to encourage
small-scale, low-carbon electricity generation by organisations not
tradition- ally engaged in the market. The scheme guarantees
organisations payment from an electricity supplier, and a
guaranteed payment for unused surplus electricity.
Since 2010, almost 100 churches have installed solar panels, and
many others are planning to do so.
The scheme has been under review since February 2011, and
changes will be implemented from 1 December. This will include
changes to support "community energy projects", including an
exemption from the requirement that they achieve a "minimum
energy-efficiency requirement" in order to qualify for the higher
Many churches, however, will not meet the definition of a
"community project", which is set out in the Government's response
to a consultation on the changes as "an inter- est company;
co-operative society; or a community-benefit society".
Ruth Knight, environmental-policy officer for the Cathedral and
Church Buildings Division of the Archbishops' Council, said on
Monday that it was "disappointed" with the definition.
"Acquiring one of the accepted legal forms is a huge challenge
for church groups with onerous administration and reporting
structures," she said. The division is considering setting up
groups of churches as "Industrial and Provident Societies for the
Benefit of the Community" in order to address this.
Garth Sheppard, the treasurer of St Peter's, Mevagissy,
Cornwall, said last week that the solar panels that had been
installed at the church would generate twice as much revenue if the
church met the Government's definition for an exemption from the
energy-efficiency requirement - £2000 a year rather than £1000.
It was "not practical" for churches such as St Peter's, which is
a 13th-century listed building, to meet the requirement, which
would entail installing central heating or double glazing.