Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network

So our Geoffrey Lean gets all excited about the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network.

For today it will launch an attempt to become Britain\’s first solar town.

Backed by the local MP and chamber of commerce, the scheme aims to generate a third of the electricity used by the town\’s 10,000 people from renewable sources – mainly the sun – by 2015, and make up to £450,000 a year for community projects from the Government\’s feed-in tariff.

The Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network, a not-for-profit co-operative, will put solar panels gratis on the roofs of local homes and businesses, allow them to use the free electricity, and collect the tariff for the community fund. Local landowners will be offered attractive deals to install larger arrays and a couple of wind turbines will be added to the mix. Anyone from the town can join the co-operative and decide how the money is spent.

Fascinating. But there\’s something to strike terror into the heart of anyone numerate on that website:

WREN has links with the renewable energy industry, the co-operative movement, the New Economics Foundation NEF,

And yes, you\’re right, nowhere is there any explanation of how this actually works.

The way it\’s all written they seem to have found that elusive invisible money tree. They\’re going to make a profit from the feed in tariffs are they? But the feed in tariffs are calculated to give an 8% return on the capital invested.

And they\’re giving the solar panels away for free. So, erm, where is the capital coming from? And that is something that I can\’t find anywhere. Who is paying?

I suspect that it is of course us who are doing so. We\’re buying them these free solar panels out of our taxes.

The community of Wadebridge and surrounding villages are entitled to benefit from their own natural energy resources and subsequent production, rather than the traditional model of large companies profiting outside of the town, the county of Cornwall, or even outside of the UK.

Doesn\’t really fly, does it? If we\’re putting the capital in then we get the capital returns, no?

Or if you want to think of it another way, some poor sod in Middlesborough is coughing up his taxes so that the people of Wadebridge get to have \”free\” electricity plus £450,000 a year to spend on community projects.


If anyone can find out where the money is coming from I\’d love to know.

12 thoughts on “Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network”

  1. I am the poor sod in Middlesbrough and I think I am already paying for this through my existing rapidly increasing utility bills. using your link to their website I found this
    “Those hosting the panels will receive free electricity, and some of the income will also go into the community fund.”
    It appears there will be a split of the Feed In Tariff between the installer/sponsor and the user. Some companies are already installing panels and taking all the FIT, it appears this offers a split.

  2. Tim, thanks for bringing this to my attention. Normally I skip Geoffrey Lean’s column in the Telegraph as it is usually recycled enviro-babble.

    I shall keep a keen watch on this project over the next few years. My BS detector is going off the scale on many levels.

    Can I suggest that in 2015 the town of Wadebridge be disconnected from the grid. This will prove whether the project is a success. I will allow them to have a diesel or gas turbine generator powered by methane from the local sewage works.

    Residents of Wadebridge – move out now while your house still has value.

  3. The project is also using the classic Marketing 101 technique of getting the punter to imagine what they would do with all the money they are about to save.

    I get this all the time from the high-powered salesmen trying to sell me solar panels. I tell them that I am prepared to wait until the economics is so much in my favour that it will be me calling them.

  4. I’ve been doing some hard googling to find something ressembling a feasibility study for the Wadebridge project and so far I’ve found nothing. There is lots of media coverage in local newspapers and some discussion in the chamber of commerce, but no hard figures.
    I did come across a plan for a solar panel farm in Cornwall which proposed to employ five people whose job would be to turn the solar panels to face the sun. This was apparently cheaper than using automation. They also planned to use a flock of geese to keep the grass down. The feed-in tariff in leading to some utterly bizarre projects.

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  6. The feed in tariff is paid for by the electricity companies (through raised electricity prices for everyone, but not by much). This is of course counter intuitive however it is an incentive scheme to get the renewable energy market moving, it will not last for long. Right now it makes far more economical sense to invest £10k in solar panels for your roof than to leave it in the bank, as long as you are prepared to wait 10-20 years to make a profit. That’s why there are so many free offers for installation. The idea is that after a few years the industry will be self sustainable and it will make economic sense even without a FiT and the way energy prices are rising (nothing to do with FiTs) this may only be a few years away.

  7. sminky:

    It is an incentive scheme to get the renewable energy market moving, it will not last for long.

    I beg to differ. We are stuck with the FIT for a long time. Infant industries ( and photo-voltaics has been an infant for 50 years) protected by subsidies or tariffs never seem to grow up.

    The costs of the subsidy are diffused, the beneficiaries are concentrated. It will take a brave politician to abolish FIT. Cameron might,
    Miliband/Balls certainly will not. The MP for Wadebridge is not going to anger his constituents.

    As far as I am aware, no cut-off date has been set for FIT.

  8. I think it’s pretty much money in the bank that anything with the imprimatur of Geoffrey Lean will be a steaming pile of horseshit. He’s not as mad as Moonbat, but that’s scant comfort.

  9. Sminky, what? Today interest rates may be ridiculously, artificially low, but anyone who thinks they’ll stay low for the next twenty years (or even the next three years) needs their head examined.

    And I think you will find that all these “free installation” deals actually depend on the company who do the “free” installation taking all the subsidies for themselves; they also insist you sign a deal that means you can’t remove the panels within the twenty-year period, and such a restriction even has to be applied to anyone you sell the property to, via some sort of covenant.

    I haven’t found out what happens when the feed-in tarriffs get cut back or abolished, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the Householder gets to pick up all the costs.

    People are going to get their fingers badly burnt by these sort of scams, mark my words.

  10. The facts on the ground in Austria and Germany of many villages, towns and regions enjoying their energy autonomy belies the hot wind I notice here. A minute sample of instances I quote in the Sustainability Primer; listening to the Hermann Scheer lecture quoted on my blog should also help.

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