Farmers struggle with UK Government cuts

Wind turbine on the farm near to Dirleton Castle
Wind turbine on the farm near to Dirleton Castle

Major cuts to a scheme which supports small scale renewable energy are the latest blow to farmers already hit by low prices, according to a group of organisations representing green energy and farming.

Industry body Scottish Renewables, the National Farmers Union Scotland and Glasgow-based wind turbine manufacturer Gaia-Wind have condemned UK Government cuts to support for small-scale green energy projects.

The warning comes ahead of the end of a consultation on changes to the feed-in tariff scheme today (October 23) which could see funding for solar cut by 87 percent and wind down 58 percent, or the end of support altogether.

Gaia-Wind CEO Johnnie Andringa said: “For the vast majority of our turbine owners a sensible and supportive feed-in tariff is a crucial part of the economics of distributed energy – the generation of power mostly for on-site use.

“Farm-scale wind, a sector with a substantial, if shrinking, base of British manufacturers, is becoming a core element of the rural economy as farmers seek to diversify from dwindling traditional income streams.

“The changes to the feed-in tariff, however, mean we could now see more company failures and job losses as a direct consequence of government policy.”

Stephanie Clark, policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Reductions in support for small-scale renewables provided through the feed-in tariff will hit rural businesses particularly hard, coming as they would on top of well-publicised low prices, particularly in the dairy industry.

“The UK Government’s consultation on changes to the feed-in tariff ends on Friday, and we are asking that rates be kept at a viable level in order to safeguard the jobs and environmental and economic benefits that the sector provides.”

Recent research by Scottish Renewables showed Scotland is home to 42,000 feed-in tariff solar schemes (equivalent to around 660,000 250W solar panels), 2,557 small wind projects, 204 hydro-electric schemes and three anaerobic digesters, which turn food waste and farm slurry into gas and electricity.

Gemma Thomson, NFU Scotland’s legal and technical policy manager, told how the proposed feed-in tariff changes would “severely limit” the number of on-farm renewable schemes in the future.

She said: “These proposals will end many on-farm renewable plans, and severely limit the number of new projects that will come forward in the future.

“NFU Scotland’s President Allan Bowie has written to DECC to voice the Union’s concerns directly.

“The knock-on effect for farm businesses will be that a previously viable way of dividing risk and reducing exposure to price volatility will no longer be an option.”

The feed-in tariff supports renewable developments below 5MW.

Electricity from this scale of development can be used to power machinery and property on a farm or small business.

A UK Government review of the feed-in tariff scheme is considering reducing the amount of money paid to people who generate their own green energy.

Submissions to that review, which ends on Friday, will be made by Scottish Renewables and NFU Scotland, among others.