Minutes of the Renewable Energy Generation Committee Meeting held in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall, Bideford, on Friday 25 January 2019 at 2.15 pm
Councillor P Christie
Councillor D Brenton
Councillor J Day (Chairman)
Councillor R Craigie
Councillor J McKenzie
Community Energy Group Mr J Craigie
Mr R Coombes (Deputy Town Clerk)
1 x Public Member
12. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Councillor B Wootton (South Ward – personal).
13. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST ON ITEMS ON THE AGENDA
There were no declarations of interest.
14. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PERIOD
There was no participation from the public member.
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 19 September 2018 were approved and signed as a correct record.
(Vote – For: 4, Against: 0, Abstention: 1)
16. RURAL COMMUNITY ENERGY FUND (RCEF) REPORT
The final RCEF report was submitted in December 2018 following a number of time limit extensions. It was noted for being the longest, at 100 pages, received.
In summarising the Chairman reminded members that:
• 2016 represented the area wide search.
• 2017 the technical feasibility of potential sites.
o Many schools and TDC were unable to commit long term.
• 2018 efforts were concentrated on the SWW Cornborough and Ashford sites.
o The constant huge power demand at Ashford would lead to a one mega watt array.
o Potential community surplus (for Ashford): £136,631 over twenty five years.
He indicated that the RCEF funding paid for document advice.
A meeting with the SWW energy team confirmed that they were very keen and would like £0.11 per unit. The main barrier appears to be the Planning Department of North Devon Council (NDC) who are not keen on establishing a solar farm between the sewage treatment plant and the Pottington Industrial Estate which is close to the Tarka Trail. The Chairman added that the Local Plan had recently been approved.
He spoke about returning to NDC stressing the potential savings in Carbon Dioxide emissions (the UK is committed to reducing its greenhouse emissions by eighty per cent of 1990 levels by 2050) and that the solar farm will have minimum visual impact. There will need to be a wild life impact assessment and engagement with the local community to support a planning bid.
A target of £1 million, to fund the project, will be sourced through:
• a nationwide stakeholder offer (possible bonus rate of return for local investors)
• loan option
• sale of development rights (lock in community stream of income).
In considering the smaller SWW Cornborough site and possible roof tops opportunities he referred to a new Devon wide community consortium that is looking to link community energy groups. Resources can be shared, reducing administrative costs and making smaller projects more viable.
Finally, the Chairman advised that £15,000 of the £20,000 RCEF funding had been spent over the two years.
Councillor Mrs Craigie stated how impressed she was with the Chairman’s undertaking.
The Chairman referred to the success of the Exeter Community Energy and Plymouth Energy Community Groups and reiterated the opportunity that the local Devon Community Group could provide for those developing a smaller range of assets, with the benefit of a larger, umbrella organisation. He indicated that many small village halls could develop a “roof lease” attractive to Devon wide opportunity.
Finally, he noted the success of the Pollyfield Community crowd funding / solar array project.
17. ACTION FOLLOWING VAT REPORT
a. Pannier Market Installation. Members discussed the VAT report that had been paid for through the WRAP grant.
The Clerk indicated that property is VAT exempt, but electricity is taxable although HMRC will not require registration unless that amount of VAT that would be charged on taxable sales exceeds £1,000. Effectively, whilst not registered the Council would not collect VAT from the tenants / traders.
Members accepted that the Council would not be able to reclaim VAT incurred in relation to taxable supplies that it makes i.e. the installation of the solar array and the running costs of the system.
He reminded Members of other Council high cost projects, notably the Market Hall inner door installation, the Dotto train and the impact upon the Council’s £7,500 partial exemption de-minimis. There was the potential for the wider Council
activity to force VAT registration.
It was also noted that the rate at which the Electricity is charged should remain the same as that being charged by the supplier (EDF), in the first instance. The Clerk indicated that he had been advised by another Market that this was their practice.
The Chairman wondered if the Project was set in motion it could be in place to qualify for the FiT payment by 31 March 2019. Councillor Christie indicated that there would be at least three months for the LBC and Torridge Planning administration time.
The Clerk advised that those contractors who had provided quotations to the Chairman would need to staff the LBC application and provide the necessary supporting technical diagrams and specification detail. He indicated that while the Conservation Officer had been supportive, in principle, believing that there would be minimal oversight, a local household survey would need to be conducted. Similarly, the structural engineering survey would need to be considered.
It was proposed by Councillor Christie and seconded by Councillor Mrs Craigie,
RECOMMENDED: That, having taken the VAT implications into consideration, a 10.8 kW solar array is established on the Pannier Market roof.
Vote: For: 6, Against: 0)
b. Alternate Site funding opportunity. The Chairman indicated that another solar panel project that could be considered was the Torridge Children's Centre in Victoria Park; the paperwork / feasibility study had been completed.
He speculated that the £7,250 TDC had earmarked for the Pollyfield Centre but not taken up, given the success of the crowd funding initiative, could be used along with match funding from the Town Council (regeneration budget). The savings would be passed onto the building (action for children).
Members deliberated on who owned the building, whether DCC, and TDC the land, noting the significance on any application for works.
The Chairman indicated that a 30 kW array on the Children’s Centre would cost £29,000.
Councillor Brenton agreed that the project should be pursued.
Discussion followed on approaches to TDC and the Bridge Trust, to fund the Project.
It was proposed by Councillor Christie and seconded by Councillor Mrs Craigie:
RECOMMENDED: That it is ascertained who owns the Children’s Centre building in Victoria Park. That TDC and other interested parties are approached to match fund a project to install solar panelling subject to the owner’s consent.
Vote: For: 6, Against: 0)
The Chairman thanked the Members for their attendance and concluded the Meeting at 3.15 pm.