Funding dilemma for green sector

THE head of the region's Centre for Process Industries (CPI) has raised concerns over a possible lack of funding to tackle green issues in the future.

THE head of the region's Centre for Process Industries (CPI) has raised concerns over a possible lack of funding to tackle green issues in the future.

Speaking at the official launch of Renew, which evolved from the Renew Tees Valley group to become CPI’s commercial facing division working in the renewable energy sector, chief executive Nigel Perry said: “You can compress the whole recycling and renewable energy issue down to a critical single question: how is it going to be funded?”

He praised what he called regional development agency One North East’s “brave agenda” of support for the sector, which has seen it stump up more than £30m in stimulating the development of renewable energy technologies and invest approximately £23m directly into CPI over the past six years. But he said he was “unnerved” by news that the agency’s annual budget was to be cut over the next three years.

“The RDAs are a much maligned animal. The support One North East has given to science, engineering and technology through the centres of excellence is absolutely incredible, so of course I’m worried about £34m disappearing out of their budget.”

He said the cost of developing ever more innovative ways of producing cheap and environmentally acceptable fuels and power was “beyond the scope of private companies or the public sector on its own”.

“Part of the answer lies in working together - the public and private sectors and centres of excellence. But it’s a fantastically difficult challenge to know where to put the money because it’s very limited and you have to produce a commercial return or another reward in the case of the public sector.”

Referring specifically to biofuels, an area where it has proved notoriously difficult to realise a realistic return on investment, he said wringing more out of the resource, for example by producing electricity as a bi-product of the distillation process, could be a solution.

He said regional economic pressures, including job losses, were bound to influence future allocations of funding by local and national Government and called for “brave decisions” at both local and national level.

CORE, the community renewable energy group, has formed the first community owned energy supply company in the UK, which is due to begin its first delivery to 80 houses and a school in Middleton, Teesdale.

“Selling energy in today’s European wide market is a complex business,” said chairman Keith Richardson. “It is a major obstacle to many community-owned renewable energy systems as they have to deal with regulators, sell energy and bill customers, trade in renewable obligation certificates and much more.”

In addition to supplying power, CORE said it would offer a range of services, including helping to raise finance for other community renewable projects.

The Teesdale project will be powered by a district wood heating system. Elsewhere in the North-east CORE is involved in a wind turbine project and others looking at turning waste cooking oil and manure into green energy.

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