FROM KENT ON SUNDAY: Town halls have been granted new powers to start a renewable electricity revolution that could reduce rises in council tax.
The green powers were implemented by Lib Dem energy minister Chris Huhne who has now written to all local authorities inviting them to sell renewable energy to the national grid.
Previously, councils with small-scale green projects, such as wind turbines and solar panels, were banned from doing so.
But the decision to overturn the 34-year-old law means authorities have a financial incentive to invest in such schemes, with money generated used for local needs and frontline services.
Residents could also see council tax increases limited if enough cash is made through renewable electricity.
Mr Huhne said: “This is a vital step to making community renewable projects commercially viable, to bring in long-term income to benefit local areas, and to secure local acceptance for low carbon energy projects.”
Dover District Council already has its own mini wind turbine which recently produced 5,027kWh of electricity and saved 2,699kg of carbon dioxide in 124 days.
A council spokesman said the authority has applied for Feed in Tariff (FIT) accreditation and is awaiting more information.
“The Government has indicated that this could be a payment of 24.1p for every kWh generated,” he said.
This amount would be in addition to the price paid to the council per kWh for electricity produced or savings made by the council for using electricity it generates itself.
In 2009, Kent County Council’s energy team provided a total of £500,000 in grants for 10 schools’ renewable energy projects.
In 2008, Sandwich Technology School installed a 5kW wind turbine, which generates an estimated 8,700kWh and saves five tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
But projects on a larger scale could be introduced after Mr Huhne said up to £200 million of income nationally could be brought in through energy schemes.
Steve Dawe, from the Kent Green Party, said every town hall could become a mini-power station as councils opt for environmental projects to feed power into the national grid for a cash return.
“The legal ban on local authorities supplying electricity imposed in 1976 was absurd,” he said.
“Removing this barrier would mean each council in Kent and Medway would no longer have to work through other organisations to generate power, but could now press on directly with developing money-saving schemes.
“Several councils have already developed renewable energy schemes that can generate over 600,000kwh of wind, tidal or solar energy locally, but the Local Government Act prevented them from selling electricity not produced alongside heat.”
But while Kent Green Party welcomed the change, its members fear it could be watered down if energy companies afraid of the competition chose to lobby Government.
Mr Dawe added: “There is also a general problem of scarce funds for such investment given excessive cuts already imposed upon and planned for local government.”
But Gary Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association’s environment board, said the move is a victory for councils who want to transform the provision of green power.
“Town halls are desperate to install solar panels and other renewable energy measures on millions of buildings,” he said.
“This has the potential to revolutionise the way we produce electricity and save huge amounts of money.”