APSE has been vociferous in highlighting ways to maximise the local economic benefit of public investment and promoting sustainable energy projects. This report is unique in bringing these two pressing agendas together and exploring the impact of renewable energy on local economies. At a time of austerity and recession, renewables and energy efficiency schemes represent a real opportunity to invest in local economic growth, with a government guaranteed funding mechanism.
Our previous collaboration with CLES enabled us to calculate the ‘local economic footprint’ of public services. This latest research uses specifically designed methodology to quantify the environmental, social and economic impacts of renewable energy schemes. Return on investment was assessed in terms of; payments from Feed In Tarrifs (FiTs); numbers of people employed and earnings generated; value of supply chains; workforce development, training and skills; as well as savings in carbon emissions.
Whilst the case studies used in this scheme concentrate on solar, similar benefits are derived from other renewables initiatives such as wind, biomass, electric fleet and energy efficiency schemes. The results of this research are promising for local authorities, their partners and communities. Researchers discovered that £1 investment in renewable energy schemes delivered an average £2.90 in cashable benefits – an almost threefold return on investment. They also saved 650 tonnes in carbon emissions per annum or some16,300 tonnes over the average 25 years lifecycle of such a scheme.
This report provides clear evidence that renewable energy schemes can save money on fuel bills, help meet carbon reduction targets and generate income. They can also create jobs for those managing, installing and maintaining projects and throughout the supply chain, which has a knock-on impact on local economies. Case studies in this report demonstrate the impacts renewable energy projects are having across the UK. Forward thinking councils have used renewable energy as a catalyst to stimulate employment, training, skills and supply chains locally, enhancing the nation’s ability to participate in the expanding global green economy. APSE has been among the organisations expressing alarm at the speed and severity of cuts to FiTs rates. APSE believes that the Government should be finding a way to support local authority schemes that have such demonstrable impacts.
In light of latest information on proposals to reduce FiTs for solar schemes, our researchers calculated the return on revised figures and found this falls to £1.50 and £1.30 for multi-installations beyond the deadline date. While this is obviously less attractive than £2.90 return on earlier projects, it still represents a strong business case for investment in renewable energy schemes. More to the point, the environmental and wider economic and social benefits of renewable energy schemes remain. The wider impacts that renewable energy schemes have on local jobs, supply chains, skills and on reducing carbon and fuel poverty also remain.
If changes to FiTs make renewable energy less attractive to those who are purely commercially motivated, in APSE’s view, this is all the more reason for councils to take a leadership role in championing such projects for their wider benefits. Also, while financial returns from FITs might be less, reductions in equipment costs remain likely, which will help reduce investment required.
This report provides valuable practical information for councils and other organisations seeking sustainable energy solutions for their areas. Its findings will be significant in helping secure political and public support for new approaches to the environmental and economic crisis we face.
A copy of the full report is available to download below: