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The hydro site on the River Thames at Osney. Image source: Oxford Times.

The hydro site on the River Thames at Osney. Image source: Oxford Times.

Many viable UK projects to generate renewable electricity are not being financed because of shortages of credit from banks. At the same time, individual savers are only able to get tiny returns on their savings. In recent days a number of schemes for linking the UK surplus from household savings to the deficit in renewable financing have surfaced.

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Copyright: SyB - Fotolia.com
Copyright: SyB – Fotolia.com.

We didn’t make much progress reducing emissions when times were good. Will the looming depression makes things worse or better? The discussion of this issue, at least in the UK, tends to be superficial. The only question asked seems to be ‘will people buy less eco-bling when times are hard?’

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Westmill Wind Farm Co-op, Watchfield, Oxfordshire
Westmill Wind Farm Co-op, Watchfield, Oxfordshire. Photo credit: http://www.energy4all.co.uk.

Community-owned wind farms are a rarity in the UK, despite their popularity in other parts of northern Europe. So should we welcome an opportunity for individual investors to invest in a newly built wind project in northern Scotland? Yes and no. The prospectus promises reasonable returns. But the protections to investors are limited and the information about the mechanism by which shareholders get their returns is sadly lacking. Even enthusiasts for individual investments in wind power need to be very cautious about investing in the Great Glen Energy Co-operative.

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Offshore location map of the London Array
Offshore location map of the London Array. Click on the image to see a more detailed map from the London Array website (opens as a PDF).

Shell backed out of its commitment to provide the financing for one third of the world’s largest offshore wind farm off the Kent coast. The London Array, expected to cost about £2bn, now needs to find a new investor. What about tapping the public? The project has reasonable economics, and private individuals could benefit from 40% tax relief by putting shareholdings into pension plans. Perhaps as importantly, such a move would raise understanding of renewable energy generation among the wider community.

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