Apple Juice success is bittersweet in light of proposed policy changes

Allt_Breugach_ApplecrossHydro_source 10-12-2015

The Highlands and Islands of Scotland are blessed with massive renewable resources. The Scottish Government policies, such as the Community And Renewable Energy Scheme, are trying to encourage the isolated communities in this region to utilise this resource.

One community based project which has recently seen success is Apple Juice, a 90 kW hydro scheme. The location for this development is Applecross, a remote peninsular on the west coast of northern Scotland. The hydro scheme run by Apple Juice (Applecross) Limited will use Allt Breugach, a burn which flows from the hills behind Shore Street into Applecross Bay. Surplus income from the scheme will go to Applecross Community Company to be spent on projects identified through consultation with the community. A novel approach was taken to part fund the development, crowdfunding was used with a call being put out for people to buy shares in the scheme. This call was so successful that the £780 000 target was reached in under a month. For more information visit the project website http://www.applecrosshydro.scot/.

Unfortunately the tenability of other communities replicating Apple Juice is currently in jeopardy, due to the UK Government’s proposed changes to the feed-in tariff laid out in the Consultation on a review of the Feed-in Tariff scheme. The consultation document lays out massive cuts and hydro is one of the technologies these fall most heavily upon. The smallest schemes (under 100 kW), like Apple Juice, will be the hardest hit of all hydro projects, with the proposed changes reducing the feed-in tariff from 14.43 p/kWh for 2015 projects to just 10.66 p/kWh (the equivalent to106.6 £/MWh) in 2016. Given the UK Government’s support for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station these proposed scale and speed of these cuts seem astounding. If the 3200 MW Hinkley nuclear plant operates at a capacity factor of 80% with the level of subsidy the UK Government have agreed (92.5 £/MWh – more than double the current wholesale price of 44 £/MWh) £1 088 million will be paid out in subsidy every year just for the electricity; this is without considering the grants, government backed loans and costly waste issue which has historically fallen to government. This is whilst the total feed-in tariff subsidy came to £866 million in the most recent 1 year review period.

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