No Green Energy Payback for Peterborough

Government has changed the rules to allow councils to sell electricty back to the National Grid, if it has been generated from simple renewable resources, such as wind, water and solar. Peterborough has well publicised green aspirations, but unlike Woking, Bristol and Teeside, they currently have nothing in the way of green energy to offer, and no firm plans on the table.
Cllr. Samantha Dalton Cabinet Member for Environment Capital talks to Andy Gall in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. Interview broadcast at 07:28 on Wednesday 18th August 2010.

AG: From today local authorities can start selling renewable energy back to the National Grid. Council-owned wind turbines and solar panels on town halls, council homes and leisure centres could produce anything up to a hundred million pounds a year according to estimates. So is Peterborough getting in on the act? Councillor Samantha Dalton is Cabinet Member for Environment Capital and joins us now. Good morning Samantha.
SD: Good morning.
AG: So will Peterborough ever sell energy back to the National Grid?
SD: I very much hope so. We’re delighted that the law’s been changed, and we can now sell energy back to the Grid, and I think it’s an excellent step forward, and hopefully local authorities can now lead by example on the renewables agenda.
AG: So when you say that we can now give energy back to the Grid, have there been situations in the past where we have an embarassment of energy and we just don’t know what to do with it?
SD: No. We’ve always been able to sell energy back to Grid if it comes from a combined heat and power facility, but we’ve never been able to sell electricity back to the Grid if it comes from a renewable source, so wind turbines, solar panels, that kind of thing. And the good thing about the feed-in tariffs is there’s two incentives. There’s the incentive to do it just by setting it up, because any electricity that you produce, whether you’re using it yourself, you can collect a feed-in tariff. And then there’s also the added bonus that if you then reduce the energy that you use and are able to sell some back to the Grid, then there’s almost like a bonus export tariff. So there’s two really good incentives for doing it. And the sooner we act, the better it is for the city, because ..
AG: When you say the sooner we act .. the sooner we act on what these proposals that have been talked about?
SD: Yes, I mean what we’d really like to do is start using renewables as soon as possible. For example, solar panels on Town Hall, solar panels on our schools, and if we can sell some of that energy back to the Grid, great, we can start generating some .. a revenue stream for the city.
AG: When are these solar panels going to be installed then? Are there plans already afoot to do this, or is it just something that’s been discussed?
SD: We have been looking into ways of doing it. We’ve had lots of offers to put solar panels on the Town Hall already. The only problem is is the people offering to do it for us are wanting to take the feed-in tariff for themselves. We don’t want to do that. We want to collect that for ourselves, and then reinvest the money in the city for the people of the city.
AG: Peterborough has been bidding to be Environment Capital for some time now, hasn’t it?
SD: Yes.
AG: And these initiatives have to be something that you’d think we would be at the front of the queue for, to make a big noise about. But if we’re just discussing this with people, and it’s falling down, then we’re not going to be the people that everyone’s going to talk about, are we?
SD: Well there’s lots of work been going on behind the scenes, getting ready for this. So, for example, one thing that we’d like to do is build a solar farm. So we have been looking at plots of land to do that, and looking at ways we can drive that forward, because the quicker we act, the higher the feed-in tariff we can collect. The longer we leave it, the incentive decreases. So if we can get that off the ground as soon as possible, it will be excellent.
AG: Well let’s hope so. It needs to be proactive, doesn’t it, because you can talk about things behind the scenes, but the general public need to see these solar farms. Just quickly, we’re running out of time, but what’s the latest on the Council’s energy from waste plant in Fengate? Plans were approved last November. What’s been happening?
SD: We’re going through a competitive dialogue process at the moment, and we’re hoping that .. well the operation’s due to begin in two thousand and fourteen two thousand and fifteen.
AG: Ok. Councillor Samantha Dalton Cabinet Member for Environment, thank you for talking to us.
SD: Thank you very much.