Plans for a £200,000 green energy loan fund, aimed at helping South Cambridgeshire residents, community groups and businesses be more environmentally friendly, have been announced by the District Council.
Under the proposals published this week, householders, voluntary groups and small and medium-sized companies that have up to 250 staff would be able to apply to borrow a share of the money to spend on energy-saving initiatives.
Councillors are keen to encourage creative and innovative applications, which could include air source heat pumps, solar panels, battery storage, electric car charging points, LED lighting, insulation or draught-proofing.
If the plans are approved by South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Cabinet on 7 February, residents, community groups businesses would be able to apply for loans between £1,000 and £10,000 per year for the next four years.
These funds would be paid back over three years, allowing recipients to spread the costs of green energy investment.
There would be no interest payable for community groups or householders, so the funds could simply be recovered and reinvested into future loan awards. Interest would be charged for small and medium-sized enterprises at the same rate as offered by Government for business start-up loans. The scheme would be funded via business rates income from new renewable energy projects in South Cambridgeshire.
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr Simon Edwards, said: “We want to encourage more green energy investment in our district, whether it is families making their homes more efficient, or businesses installing electric car charging points at their offices. We know these types of projects can be expensive, so the idea of this scheme is to make it more achievable for people, companies and community groups across South Cambridgeshire to be greener.
"This funding would help many people make longer-term savings in the form of cheaper energy bills, and it’s very apt this would be paid for by business rates that we’re receiving from large-scale renewable sites that are up and running here. We’re already preparing to launch our Community Energy Grants scheme, which only community and voluntary groups are able to apply for, so a more widely-accessible project would mean we’re helping even more people who are trying to be more sustainable and self-sufficient.”
A separate proposal set to be discussed by the authority’s Cabinet next month recommends the Council also invests a share of retained business rates from local renewable energy projects to generate income and become increasingly sustainable.
If approved, this would include considering the possibility of income generating or cost saving energy investment opportunities at the Council HQ in Cambourne, such as the potential for solar canopies within the car park. Similarly, the option of including renewable energy generation schemes at the planned new Sports Pavilion and Community Centre sites at the new town of Northstowe would be looked at.
This proposal would also involve investigating upgrading the 1,800 footpath lights the authority is responsible for, by installing LED bulbs. This would cut energy bills in this area which Parish Councils pay.