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European fund supports UK initiative in micro-renewable energy

Funding will support a business support centre in northeastern England that will focus on advice and guidance to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) which want to develop micro-renewable technologies.

The service will be launched by the New & Renewable Energy Centre (NAREC) at Blyth, with £495,000 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and matching funds from the regional development agency, One North East. NAREC will also work with local colleges, to ensure that future skills demands are met.

Micro-renewable technologies produce energy on a small scale, such as electricity capacity of less than 50 kW or heat capacity under 45 kWe. The support will cover wind turbines, solar electric, solar thermal, heat pumps, combined heat & power (cogeneration) and biomass systems.

“Our aim is to open up more specific support to SMEs with technical advice and guidance to stimulate development and increase uptake of new micro-renewable technologies,” says Steve Caseley of NAREC. “This funding will help to break down the barriers that exist when we try, as a region, to develop the micro-renewables market.”

The UK government will introduce a feed-in tariff for electricity in April and an incentive for heat in 2011.

“Similar measures have helped other European countries, including Germany, to drive up a step change with their renewable energy production,” he adds. “NAREC will run sessions on low-carbon solutions and promote installation of micro-renewables, providing baseline energy information to show businesses where carbon reductions and energy efficiency savings can be made.”

During the two-year project, NAREC will identify at least three high-profile projects involving the integration of micro-renewables. It will support delivery of courses on renewable energy at Northumberland College and at Newcastle College.

“Technical knowledge is a recognised barrier for the micro-renewable market and we have worked extremely hard to develop our capability to be able to provide guidance and assistance to organisations looking to instal these technologies,” adds Caseley. “We provide the expertise to ensure that businesses match the most appropriate technology with each house or building type. Our technical specialists will also undertake micro-renewable training to ensure that the region has the most up-to-date knowledge and experience on the use and application of new technologies.”

ERDF will provide £300m to projects in northeastern England which support innovation, enterprise and business support. It will create or retain 28,000 jobs, start 3,000 new businesses, and increase the region’s productivity by £1.1bn each year.

“The UK Renewable Energy Strategy details how 15% of energy will come from renewable sources by 2020,” says Lesley Calder of One North East. “Micro-renewables and their application in homes, communities and businesses will play a critical role in meeting EU targets. This project will build capacity to encourage uptake of micro-renewables and promote the benefits for businesses.”

NAREC is a national centre for accelerating the deployment and grid integration of renewable energy and low-carbon generation technologies, including wind, wave, tidal, solar PV and thermal power. It works with blue-chip companies, SMEs, start-ups and university spin-outs to commercialise technologies which provide electricity or heat, and which contribute to a distributed energy system.

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