Business

Wind farm shares to be sold to locals under new scheme

wind farm Image copyright PA
Image caption Wind farms have attracted controversy in the UK

Locals could be offered the chance to buy shares in new wind farms, solar farms and hydro power stations, under new government approved guidelines.

A stake in a local energy business could cost from just £5, and the industry says it could generate an annual return of between 6% and 9%.

The scheme aims to reduce local opposition to renewable energy development.

It has been developed by the renewable industry alongside community groups.

The Shared Ownership Taskforce plan follows similar programmes in Denmark which have been running for more than two decades.

It applies to anything entering the planning system from Monday.

More than 70% of people in the UK nationally say they like wind farms, according to a government survey.

However, proximity often provokes a different response and the wind farms are frequently considered a blot on the landscape.

The government previously insisted that wind farm developers should give local communities £5,000 a year for every megawatt of energy installed - to support local initiatives.

The taskforce goes further by insisting that any new applications entering the planning system must offer to sell part of their business to locals - somewhere between 5 and 25%. This can be in the form of directly-owned shares, crowd-funding or debentures.

Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive, Renewable Energy Association welcomes the plan. She told BBC News: "Elsewhere in Europe this is commonplace, so we're very pleased the UK is also working towards this vision of a more open energy market."

The scheme has been promoted by the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Edward Davey. He said: "Community energy is revolutionising renewable energy development in the UK, and shared ownership will offer people the opportunity to buy in to the green energy that their own communities are producing."

The Vice-Chair of the Taskforce and an associate of Co-operatives UK, Rebecca Willis, said: "We know from our experience at grass roots level that there's a substantial appetite among local communities to invest in renewable energy."

There are, though, still likely to be areas where local people will prefer to keep their uninterrupted view than to cash in a regular dividend cheque.

Local groups facing shale gas developments in their area may regard the renewables scheme with interest.

Follow Roger Harrabin on Twitter @rharrabin

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