We wanted our solar dream to inspire people all over the world, but the government have brought that dream to an end with a series of policy changes that are devastating to the community energy sector and the wider renewable energy sector in the UK.
Our plan was to build a nature-friendly solar park large enough to power the whole village, and the REPOWERBalcombe group were just hours away from buying the rights to achieve this but we have been forced to abandon at the eleventh hour after the Treasury unexpectedly scrapped a tax break that community energy projects rely on to raise funds.
We have been working tirelessly alongside a large solar energy provider with the goal of completing this project to install a 19 acre, 5 megawatt solar farm in West Hoathly at Chiddinglye Farm.This ambitious project would have generated the equivalent electricity used by Balcombe and West Hoathly.
Having gained planning permission, the project was looking promising until several recent government policy changes were announced that target and adversely affect the community energy sector.
REPOWERBalcombe volunteers have been working hard to work within these new boundaries in order to make the project work but sadly the time constraints forced upon us by the legislative changes have made it impossible to proceed with the solar farm as a community owned project.
We are bitterly disappointed that it has come to this, especially after so much hard work has gone it. The mechanics of a project of this scale and how policy changes impacted us is complex and there will be a fuller explanation on our website in due course.
The two single biggest factors were the review and uncertainty around subsidy rates – introducing financial viability risk, and removal of tax relief for investors – increasing the risk of raising the large sums of money to fund the project.
The positive news is that the developers are still working to secure the capital to get the site built and operational, so there should still be local renewably generated electricity.
Existing REPOWERBalcombe installations are not affected. These will continue to be owned and run by our community and continue to generate clean energy, returning profits to the community as normal.