The government’s clean energy cuts have scuppered Balcombe’s community solar plan, but there’s still time to help similar projects in other places.
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After fighting off a controversial fracking project in 2013, the people of Balcombe have been working to repower their village with community-owned solar panels.
Their solar dream has inspired people all over the world – but surprise government cuts have brought that dream to an end.
The plan was to build a Nature-friendly solar park large enough to power the whole village, with every panel owned by the local community.
The group of local volunteers who run the Repower Balcombe project were just hours away from buying the lease on the land when the Treasury unexpectedly scrapped a tax break that community energy groups rely on to raise funds. They had no choice but to cancel the project.
The group had already weathered a series of government cuts and changes to support for clean energy and the removal of the tax break was the final straw, making it impossible for the project to go ahead.
‘It was an incredibly hard decision, but the policy situation simply meant we were haemorrhaging investor confidence.’
Joe Nixon, Repower Balcombe
The good news is that solar panels should still be built on the land next year, generating clean electricity and bringing real benefits to the local area. But they’ll be owned and controlled by a commercial developer – not the local community. And there’ll be no opportunity for supporters to invest in the project, as was originally planned.
‘We’re still incredibly proud of the work we’ve done, and excited to see the farm open next year. But it’s bitterly disappointing that it won’t be a community-run project, because we don’t just need to decarbonise our energy system, we need to give people more of a say in it.’
Joe Nixon, Repower Balcombe
The same cut that scuppered Balcombe is threatening dozens of other community energy projects with the same fate. But 10:10 is determined not to let that happen.
These projects were already further ahead than Balcombe’s, so they’re much better-placed to beat the cut. But it’s going to be tight. They’ve all had to fast-forward their fundraising: if they can get fully funded by the end of November, they’re safe.
10:10 has built a website that makes it easy to find a project and help it cross the line before it’s too late. Whether you’ve got five, fifty or five hundred pounds to spare, your contribution could be the difference between a project getting built and getting binned.
Click here to find out about the community energy projects that need funding, and how you can help support them through 10:10’s clean energy dash campaign.
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