A £10m government fund to help rural communities become cleaner and more sustainable has been criticised as inadequate.
New community projects across England are now being encouraged to apply for feasibility grants of up to £40,000 for green initiatives, including solar battery storage, wind, hydro and geothermal heat projects.
Energy and clean growth minister Chris Skidmore said, “This £10m fund can help sports clubs, churches and schools not only save money and reduce emissions by creating their own clean energy but also make money by selling it back to the grid.”
However critics of the government’s renewable energy policy pointed out that last year the Tories scrapped large scale subsidies for renewable energy such as wind and solar.
As a result, home installations for solar panels fell by 94 per cent last month, leading Labour to accuse the government of “actively dismantling the industry”.
Other renewable energy projects that have had government support pulled include the Swansea tidal bay lagoon, which would have been the first of its kind in the UK and created 2,000 jobs – a move Unite said was a “short-sighted jobs killer” when it was announced last June.
Labour described the £10m allocated for community projects as “disappointing”.
Shadow minister for environment, food and rural affairs David Drew MP said, “Rural areas could provide and be a major beneficiary from clean energy schemes, whether they be wind, solar, water, anaerobic digestion, battery or hydrogen cell.
“It’s therefore so disappointing that central government has found so little money and misses this opportunity.”
Unite regional secretary for the South West, Steve Preddy, said much more needs to be done to assist rural communities struggling from a lack of investment and years of Tory cuts.
He said, “(The fund) is a positive step in the right direction, but so much more is required to assist rural deprivation and arrest the decline in young people remaining in rural communities.
“For real change we need the provision of a local and diverse economy in rural areas through investment in modern green technologies, housing and public transportation.”