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Pioneering renewable energy finance scheme wins award

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 8 July 2009 at 8:50 am

Loan schemes and finance for energy efficiency or renewable energy schemes are thin on the ground, so it's always good to hear about a new one. It's especially good to hear about a pioneering new approach that has the potential to be replicated around the country.

I recently wrote about Kirklees Borough Council winning an Ashden Award for its Warm Zone scheme which aims to install cavity wall and loft insulation in every home in the borough, free of charge. Well, on the same night that they were picking up their Ashden Award, other councillors were across town picking up the Renewable Energy Associations Advocate Award for its RE-Charge Scheme.

RE-Charge offers interest-free loans of up to £10,000 to homeowners to install renewable energy and low carbon technologies in their house. The loan is arranged as a charge (this is another term for secured loan or mortgage) on the property, and only has to be repaid to the council when the property is sold or changes hands. All the homeowner has to pay up front is the cost of administering the charge up to £350.

The £3 million scheme was launched last year, and the first installations took place in April 2009, when Alison Cotterill in Dewsbury had a wood pellet boiler and a solar thermal system installed.

Before they are accepted on the scheme, homeowners are visited by the scheme manager, who is independent of the contractors. He assesses whether a technology is suitable for their property and helps them to choose the best solution.

Kirklees is the only council offering this service at the moment, but Councillor Andrew Cooper, who initiated the scheme, is enthusiastic about its potential for replication. “This is a tried and tested method of eliminating the capital cost issue for household renewables and building a mass market for microgeneration,” he says. “The goal is an energy generating democracy. The benefits are a growing renewables industry, lower carbon dioxide emissions and lower fuel bills.”

Given the current economic situation, Cllr Cooper believes that individual councils won’t be in a position to introduce similar schemes, and that the impetus will need to come from national governments. The scheme has attracted interest the Scottish assembly and the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Let’s hope that interest soon turns to action.

In the meantime, finance opportunities are thin on the ground for those who don’t live in Kirklees. Some councils do have loan schemes, but they come and go and I can’t find a central place where they are listed, so it’s best to check direct with yours (and do let us know what you find so I can share it with others).

The only banks that I can find that have specific products for renewable energy or energy efficiency installations are the Co-operative Bank and The Ecology Building Society. Both are only available to people who already have a mortgage with the company.

The Co-op offers an Energy Efficiency Advance of up to £20,000 with an interest rate linked to base rate for the life of the loan. The Ecology Building Society has a C-Change interest rate of 1% less than its standard variable rate on loans for home energy improvements.

Photo by sebilden

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