A £15m fund for rural energy projects in England is now open for applications.

The Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF), launched by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), will provide money for rural communities to carry out feasibility studies into renewable energy projects as well as funding the costs associated with applying for planning permission. It is hoped rural communities will then be able to attract private finance to get the projects up and running. Eligible project types include wind, solar, biomass, heat pumps, anaerobic digestion, gas combined heat and power, and hydro.

“This investment will help kick-start hundreds of clean green energy projects in rural areas across England. This new fund will give aspiring communities access to the cash they need to make this happen,” said energy and climate change minister Greg Barker.

Community projects set for Feed-in Tariffs support

Community energy projects will now be able to receive Feed-in Tariffs support, under plans unveiled by DECC on Wednesday (3 July).

Community-owned projects over 5MW in size are able to receive support under the renewables obligation (RO), however following feedback from community groups, the DECC is now planning to allow projects up to 10MW in size to receive Feed-in Tariffs support.

“Not only can local [energy] generation bring people together, boost local economies and drive forward green growth, it can help save money on energy bills too.”

How the fund works

The fund offers money in two stages – first there is a grant of up to £20,000 available to cover feasibility studies into projects in local areas, followed by the option of securing a government loan worth up to about £130,000 to help with project costs such as planning permission and gaining environmental permits.

The loan is repayable once projects have received the necessary private sector funding required to get them up and running. Community groups will be required to pay back a set amount on top of the loan borrowed; this will then be rolled back into the fund to support further community energy projects.

RCEF is a follow on from the Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF) launched in December 2011, which helped fund 236 community energy projects across England.

Interested communities, including those who received funding via LEAF, can apply for the fund via the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), who is administering the scheme.

There is no set deadline for applications, which will be reviewed on a monthly basis by DECC and DEFRA, with guidance from WRAP.

More on this topic

Survey shows great potential for on-farm renewables