Kick-starting rural renewable energy projects in Dorset

The Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) is a £10 million government programme which aims to support rural communities in England in the development of renewable energy projects.

The RCEF is jointly funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (DBEIS). The UK’s five regional Local Energy Hubs are currently running the initiative, and Dorset LEP (DLEP) are collaborating with the South West Energy Hub to promote and deliver Dorset’s share of funding.

Why are the Dorset LEP involved?

Dorset LEP is committed to long-term economic growth and strategic investment. Therefore, Dorset LEP strives to lead Dorset in clean growth, aligning with government targets of renewable energy and carbon neutrality.

Dorset LEP director, Lorna Carver, says: “This fund can help local communities explore options related to renewable energy. The LEP along with our Local Authority partners want to support community initiatives which are vital for a green future.”

At community level, clean energy generation secures supply by reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels which fluctuate in price. Income from renewable projects can also be used to provide benefits to the community, create jobs, and promote social cohesion.

The Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) state: “The fund will achieve its aims by removing the barriers to investment, which is currently seen to be preventing the development of community scale projects, such as the up-front costs associated with gaining planning permission, designing a scheme and providing evidence of technical feasibility. It does this by providing funding to community organisations to establish the feasibility of and develop the business plan for a renewable energy facility. Currently the cost of exploring feasibility and developing an investment ready business plan is high and finance for this is not readily available in the commercial market.”

Why apply?

One route to producing local and successful clean energy projects is via RCEF support, and the call for funding applications is closing very soon.

The fund will provide up to approximately £140,000 per project over two stages, for feasibility and pre-planning development. This will allow projects to reach the point of being investment ready.

Check your eligibility

Eligible projects must fulfil the rural community criteria. DEFRA’s Magic Map is a reference tool to assist possible applicants.

1. Click ‘get started’

2. On the left side of the page, expand ‘administrative geographies’, and then in the drop down expand ‘other administrative boundaries’

3. Select the red tick box- ‘rural areas within local enterprise partnerships’

4. Zoom in to the area you are interested in, click the ‘identify’ icon at the top of the webpage and then click on the area to determine whether it is considered rural. DEFRA have suggested zooming into street level, or even clicking the exact building to get the most accurate result.

5. If an area reads ‘no features found’ in the pop up box, this is NOT considered to be rural. If an area includes a LEP name (ie North Eastern), then this area IS considered rural.

6. You will find that some areas will read ‘to be confirmed on application’. These areas have been manually determined by Defra as unique and may need further investigation to classify them as rural or urban.

Once willing applicants have used the Magic Map they are invited to fill out a pre-application form which should be sent to The South West Energy Hub, contactable at this email address: [email protected]. This should be sent as soon as possible. Upon receiving questionnaire feedback and guidance a full application must then be submitted by the 23rd of August 2019, with decisions by 30th September 2019.

Your 3 steps to funding:

1.            Use the Magic Map tool to gauge your project’s eligibility for funding

2.            Submit a pre-application questionnaire as soon as possible to receive feedback and guidance

3.            Submit full application – ‘Grant form Stage 1 Rural Community Energy Fund’