Image: Public Power Solutions

Community solar has faced its toughest year yet, according to a new report, detailing how new generation capacity fell in 2018.

In 2018, just 7.2MW of new community solar capacity was installed across 47 new sites. In total, 7.9MW of new community energy capacity was installed, a 78% drop from the 35.5MW installed in 2017.

Community Energy England (CEE) and Community Energy Wales’ ‘State of the Sector’ report shows that as of December 2018, the total generation capacity of community energy in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was 168MW. Solar totals 138.3MW of this figure.

Whilst new capacity may be down on previous years, the number of groups working on low carbon transport projects increased from five in 2017 to 29 in 2018. Community benefit funds, created by community energy schemes, distributed £978,000 to local causes, the majority with an environmental focus.

Polling by Co-op Energy, released alongside the report, found that 82% of respondents think the government should do more to support community energy generation and 69% think the government should offer tax relief to investors in community energy.

This comes after the removal of govenrment support for small-scale solar, with the feed-in tariff (FiT) subsidy closing on 31 March this year.

Emma Bridge, chief executive of CEE, said the impact of government policy such as the removal of the FiT on the community energy sector is “stark”.

“Now is the time for us to renew our calls on central government to offer better support for community energy. A reinstatement of Social Investment Tax Relief for those willing to finance schemes would be a sensible start.

“At the same time the sector will continue to work with businesses and civil society to support the transition to a cleaner, greener, decentralised power system, with people at its heart.”

The development of the report was supported by SP Energy Networks (SPEN), with Rachel Shorney, SP manweb stakeholder engagement manager for SPEN, describing community energy qs an integral part of SPEN’s customer portfolio that it is committed to helping facilitate.