By Marcus Leach

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has today (Wednesday) announced funding of £10 million for local community energy projects, and a £20 million boost to the existing public sector energy efficiency loan scheme.

“This is great news for the public sector. Not only do we need to encourage energy efficiency in our schools, hospitals and universities, we also need to get green energy generation and energy efficiency into our communities," Chris Huhne said.

"That’s why we are also making £10million available for communities to help spur an energy revolution at a local level.”

The new £10 million Local Energy Assessment Fund, managed by a number of community networks and administered by the Energy Saving Trust, will be run as a competition, with the chance for around 200 community organisations to get to grips with energy efficiency and renewable energy generation.

Organisations including parish councils, voluntary associations, development trusts and faith groups are all eligible to apply.

There is around £50,000 available for each successful community to be used to help assess the potential for energy efficiency and local renewable energy generation and get things started in local communities. This is a short term scheme where work will need to be completed by end of March 2012.

Interested communities can apply via the Energy Saving Trust from 9am Wednesday 7 December and money will be allocated in two rounds. The first round closes at noon on 22 December 2011 with successful applicants notified in the week beginning 9 January 2012. The second round will close to applications at noon on 20 January 2012 with successful communities notified at the end January.

The Government has also set up a Community Energy Group to look at how local energy opportunities can be further explored in communities.

“The Government is making huge changes to the UK’s energy system, including reforms to the electricity market to make sure that we can replace aging power stations and keep the lights on in the cheapest, cleanest way, and the Green Deal, the biggest home energy efficiency drive since the Second World War. I want to make sure that local communities are at the heart of this energy revolution, and this funding will help make sure that can happen,” Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said.

Peter Lipman, Chair of Communities and Climate Action Alliance is delighted by the announcement.

“I'm delighted that Government is recognising that communities' pivotal role in responding to climate change needs to be supported. This fund is a great way for some communities to better understand their energy needs and opportunities, and will help them to react to Government policies such as the Green Deal,” he said.

In addition a further £20 million in Salix loans has been made available for public sector energy efficiency projects in England before the end of March 2012, saving organisations money on energy bills and reducing carbon emissions. Salix loans are provided for energy efficiency projects that pay for themselves within five years through lower energy bills.

Repayments are made from the money saved on bills, and once the loan has been repaid the organisation will continue to benefit from the low carbon equipment and the savings it delivers. To date, the scheme has funded over 7000 projects across Great Britain. Interested public sector organisations need to apply to Salix Finance Ltd and have their loan agreed by the end of March 2012.

“Salix is really pleased to be awarded this new funding. It will enable us to continue to provide much needed assistance to the public sector, helping it reduce its carbon emissions and energy bills. Demand from the public sector for energy efficiency improvements is enormous. This interest free loan fund removes the barrier of having to find capital to pay for the energy efficiency measures at a time of tight budgets,” Alastair Keir, CEO of Salix Finance said.

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