Wind of change harnessed for green gain in Devon.

DEVON County Council has been put forward as a finalist in a prestigious international green energy award scheme.

DEVON County Council has been put forward as a finalist in a prestigious international green energy award scheme.

The Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy 2009 is the world's leading green energy award scheme and has announced that Devon County Council is one of the sustainable energy pioneers from the UK, Africa, Asia and Latin America

Devon will compete in the Local Authorities Award category for up to �30,000 in prize money, to be used for scheme improvement and expansion. The winners will be announced at a ceremony hosted by HRH Prince Charles in London on 11 June.

Devon County Council's Renewable Energy for Devon (RE4D) scheme is boosting green rural regeneration in Devon by stimulating both supply and demand for renewable energy.

The scheme has led to 109 renewable energy installations in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and community organisations, and a further 18 in domestic properties. These have a total installed capacity of over 2 MW, avoiding around 1,300 tonnes/year of CO2 emissions.

RE4D has provided �0.25m in grants and helped secure �0.81m of other funding. Fifty-five jobs have been created and a further 16 safeguarded through the scheme.

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The Devon countryside has ideal weather conditions and plenty of suitable sites for wind turbines, solar power and micro-hydro, and ample woodland to supply biomass fuel.

Melanie Sealey, the scheme's Project Manager, described the scope of the programme:

"With many deprived rural areas in the county, where most of the employment is provided by small businesses, a renewable energy drive makes good sense both for the environment and the local economy. We hope that the success of this pilot programme will catalyse similar action in the rest of the South-West."

Devon County Council launched RE4D in 2006 to create jobs and reduce the county's carbon footprint. The programme tackles both sides of the renewable energy market at once - stimulating demand and building up installer capacity. Over the past two years RE4D has provided up to 25 percent grants for SMEs and 50 percent grants to community organisations, totalling �250,000. In addition they have helped their clients access other grants and loans worth a total of �805,000. Over 400 SMEs, communities, schools and public sector organisations have been advised.

Lesley Hughes, Ivybridge town clerk, comments:

"We wanted to get some renewable energy into the Watermark Centre but weren't sure what technology to use or where to get funding. We got all the advice and help we needed from RE4D, which led us to conclude that renewable energy was a viable option for us, so we installed a photovoltaic (PV) array on the roof."

RE4D focuses on SMEs in the region, encouraging them to install appropriate renewable energy technology by giving them advice and grants. To fill the gap in renewable energy technical skills, they conducted a survey of local installers and then set up relevant training courses. Installers are entitled to free places on the training courses offered by RE4D, but must match-fund a business development grant.

Ten Technology Growth Plans are helping to direct the county's renewable energy strategy, which includes setting up wood-fuel cooperatives, the manufacture and installation of micro-hydro turbines and improving the local supply chain for small-scale wind turbines.

The �1.23m funding for the project was provided mainly by the European Regional Development Fund Objective 2 (45%) the South West Regional Development Agency (28%) and Devon County Council (19%), During 2009 Devon County Council is providing core funding for RE4D, and further funding from external sources is being sought to allow the project to develop further.