Wednesday, 23 February 2011

New report renewables could help combat rural fuel poverty

As the UK continues to plough through a very cold winter, rural fuel poverty has become an increasing problem. Sustained rises in heating costs have led to many people in rural communities struggling to keep warm in winter. For this reason, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), with partners ACRE, the CRC and the NALC, have published a new guide to renewable energy sources that will help rural communities keep their bills under control while playing their part in cutting carbon emissions [1].

A recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation report found rural households face a minimum cost of living 10-20 per cent above urban households, largely because of higher energy and transport costs [2]. However, many rural communities can generate their own energy from renewable sources such as small-scale hydro, solar, wind, biomass or ground and air source heat pumps.

Dustin Benton, Senior Policy Officer for CPRE, says: “Many rural communities with older buildings risk losing out as energy bills rise but our report shows that the answer to reducing bills and cutting carbon may be right on their doorstep. Communities should decide on the best technologies for their area and start generating their own green energy. They can then use the profit from these schemes to pay for energy efficiency improvements in their local area.”

The joint report, ‘Get Generating: A renewable energy guide for rural communities’, has case study examples from across the country showcasing communities that have succeeded in making renewable energy work for them.

The report outlines how well designed community renewables are one way in which communities can get an income stream for energy efficiency improvements. It provides a guide to how communities can take advantage of local resources to generate clean, green power. Such projects have been shown to generate income which can be used for local energy saving measures and plant the seed for other Big Society activity in the community.

Dustin Benton concluded: “There are enormous benefits available by taking a community, ‘big society’ approach to renewable energy. As well as providing an ongoing source of income and reducing energy bills, these projects have been shown to provide a focus for community work on cutting carbon and helping combat climate change.”

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