November 19, 2012

Residents near Cornwall windfarm to be offered energy bill discounts

Jessica Shankleman for BusinessGreen, part of the Guardian Environment Network |, Monday 19 November 2012 04.50 EST |

Good Energy will today unveil a new electricity tariff offering people living near its wind farms discounts on their energy bills in a bid to boost the benefit communities get from hosting turbines.

The independent utility will launch the local electricity tariff early next year for any customers living within two kilometers of a Good Energy wind farm with a capacity greater than 4MW.

The tariff will initially apply only to the 9.2MW Delabole project in Cornwall – the only wind farm Good Energy operates – but the reduced rate will be offered more widely as new planned wind farms come online. Good Energy plans to develop 100MW of solar and wind power capacity by 2016.

Customers living within two kilometres of Delabole will receive a 20 per cent discount on their energy bills, offering savings of up to £110 on annual bills compared to an average national household payment of £550.

Local tariff customers will also receive an annual bonus if the turbines generate more electricity than expected.

Juliet Davenport, Good Energy chief executive, told BusinessGreen the tariff had been in the pipeline for two years, and forms part of its overarching ambition to “bring people closer to their energy source”.

The move comes amid a government review into the falling cost of onshore wind power and how to ensure communities enjoy greater benefits from hosting wind farms.

Davenport said Good Energy’s final plans were the result of lengthy consultations with nearby communities about their attitudes to wind farm developments.

The new tariff is expected to cost Good Energy £25,000, and will cover discounts for around 400 households near Delabole. A planned wind farm near Turriff in Aberdeenshire will also see the tariff offered to local households.

“Nearly everybody we engaged with in Delabole and in Scotland was interested in how the wind farm would affect them, but also how they could benefit,” explained Davenport.

“They could see that the farmer or landowner would get a direct payment, but they also wanted a share of the benefits.”

However, Davenport said the local tariff would not apply for those living near its solar installations because the technology has less of a visual impact and tighter cost margins than wind power.

The news comes days before the government is expected to launch its Energy Bill that will set out how renewable energy developers will be supported financially under the new contract for difference (CfD) mechanism.

“We’re waiting to see what the Bill says,” said Davenport. “There’s a lot of gaps and once we’ve filled them in then the hard work can really start in the Department of Energy and Climate Change to deliver the changes.”

She also downplayed the impact of revelations last week that a group of right-wing Conservative MPs are attempting to undermine investment in wind power.

Wind power companies called on Prime Minister David Cameron to urgently “get a grip” on energy policy as it emerged that anti-wind power MP Chris Heaton-Harris was working with a political opponent in the Corby by-election to try to change energy policy and block new wind farm developments.

Tory Energy Minister John Hayes also told Channel 4 News he did not want to see any more wind farms enter the planning system.

But Davenport said the events were like a “pantomime” and said they were unlikely to affect government policy.

She refused to comment on how Hayes’ position on wind power could affect the industry, saying only that he needed to be “very careful” that he does not overstep the mark and undermine investor confidence.

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