The idea of a community feed-in tariff has been much debated in the UK over the past few years. Internationally, some very supportive authorities have initiated 'COMFiTs' (Nova Scotia, Canada is a world-leading example), so could it be possible here in Britain where community energy has become an important element of the renewable energy sector?
The idea of extending the capacity range allowed within the FiT for community projects, from 5MW to 10MW, was presented in DECC's Community Energy Strategy in January 2014. after consulting on this idea, it was eventually not translated into policy.
Looking forward we believe that the feed-in tariff is not fit for purpose for community energy, but also realise that there will be stakeholders who will not support a distinct tariff with its own rates and rules. The following suggestion sees a community FiT following the same rules as the normal FiT, but without having to contend with private sector uptake causing rapid degression for community and shared-ownership projects.
The following is taken from a note prepared and circulated to colleagues within the community energy sector on July 1st.
'This document introduces a simple conceptual design for a community feed-in tariff, which does not see a higher tariff rate or lower degression rate, but allows community groups a ‘capacity carve-out’ within the overall capacity allowance. This would mean that the community feed-in tariff would degress in line with community energy capacity deployed, not overall renewable energy deployment.
Much of the following background material is taken from www.fitariffs.co.uk
Note: Larger scale wind (1.5-5MW) and hydro (>2MW) degression is linked to pricing under the RO. This may need to be tackled in a different way to that explained below.
Contingent degression is enacted on the basis of the amount of capacity deployed under the FITs (including pre-accreditation) in a defined period. Depending on the amount of deployment, the degression will be at the ‘default’ rate, lower rate or one of several higher rates, as shown below in Tables 1 and 2.
We suggest that within each ‘corridor’ a proportion of capacity should be ‘carved-out’ and placed into a separate community feed-in tariff, which is subject to the same regulations, but is subject to degression at the rate up uptake within the ‘carve-out’ only. If the level of capacity reserved for the community feed-in tariff was calculated properly, and historical uptake trends continue, we would expect a slower rate of degression as compared to the overall FiT degression rates, allowing community projects the time that they require in the pre-planning period.
Recent research shows that whilst the costs of community and commercial projects are fairly similar overall, there are major disadvantages to community projects in terms of pre-planning costs and timescales. Therefore community projects are subject to a greater number of degressions prior to pre-accreditation than commercial projects. A capacity carve-out for a community feed-in tariff would level the playing field for community projects. The aim is not to reserve a higher tariff rate for community projects (such as in Ontario, Canada), but to ensure that similar community and commercial projects are able to achieve similar tariff rates, despite longer project development timescales in the community sector.
The amount of capacity reserved for the community feed-in tariff should match the ambitions of the government in its promotion of community owned renewable energy. '
 Harnmeijer et al (2015 in press). The Comparative Costs of Community and Commercial Renewable Energy Projects in Scotland. ClimatexChange.