National government, local planners and power network operators need to be more supportive to encourage the rural sector to commit to renewable energy generation, says the Country Landowners & Business Association.

In a key note address at last week’s Energy Now Expo event, Telford, Shropshire (Feb 13), CLA deputy president Henry Robinson said greater clarity was needed from government over support for renewable energy schemes and energy cropping.

“Government has a dilemma. It is balancing on a narrow fence pushing for economic growth and meeting green credentials. Greater clarification (of support payments and incentives) will stabilise and encourage investment,” he said.

“We also need local planners to implement schemes, not block applications. And, as some of you will know, connection to the electric supply network can be slow – a lottery – with the renewable sector being treated poorly,” he added.

Renewable energy generation remained a challenge. The sector was still in its infancy, with energy producers dispersed widely adding to distribution costs, explained Mr Robinson.

Despite renewables’ reliance on an artificial market – supported by Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs), Renewables Obligation (ROCs) and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) – it could be a good second income to complement core farm activities, he said.

Fossil fuel-burning power stations with the associated contribution to Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) are to be withdrawn under EU legislation described in the power generation sector as “controlled disconnection”, he explained.

Add to that the fact western economies had “passed peak oil extraction” and the on-going concern over decommissioning of nuclear fuel all added weight to the argument for including renewable energy in current farm activities, he added.

“Above all else get good advice. Don’t just learn from your own mistakes but those of others. Set up for long-term finance schemes and borrow against non-agricultural assets where possible (to maximise tax offsets and allowances),” he advised.

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