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Eco Church scheme defies government cuts

Bishop Peter Price of Bath & Wells; Bishop Michael Langrish of Exeter, Bishop Michael Perham of Gloucester, at St Mark's Church, Exeter

Bishop Peter Price of Bath & Wells; Bishop Michael Langrish of Exeter, Bishop Michael Perham of Gloucester, at St Mark's Church, Exeter

A pioneering project to help Anglican churches, schools and vicarages cut their carbon footprint was launched on Monday 12 December in the South West.  Despite government  cuts to subsidies for solar energy providers,  the Church plans to forge ahead with a project to install photovoltaic (PV) panels on buildings, called Eco Church South West.  

ECSW is a partnership between the Dioceses of Gloucester, Exeter and Bath and Wells, with green energy supplier Ecotricity.

More than 40 vicarages, three churches and two schools in and around Gloucestershire  already have PV panels installed. A further 300 churches, 200 schools and 100 vicarages across the South West are interested in progressing with the scheme.

Until this week, the government offered a 43p 'Feed in Tariff' (FiT) for PV panel owners who sell excess green energy to the grid. From Monday, the rate was cut by 51 per cent. New specific conditions for receiving the FiT will also be released early next year, which could involve reaching particular energy efficiency levels.

The Church of England's national environment campaign, Shrinking the Footprint, led a campaign on the 'Feed in Tariff' (FiT) with a petition on the Government website.  David Shreeve the CofE's national environment adviser said solar panels enabled churches to use renewable energy while settling an example in the local community.

However, many churches are historic, listed buildings and cannot be insulated.  It is hoped that special provision will be made for churches and other community buildings, so that they are not expected to reach the same high standards of efficiency as new builds.

Canon Adrian Slade, Director of Social Responsibility at the Diocese of Gloucester said: "It is disappointing that the government has decided to make these cuts, but we are confident that we will still be able to offer the scheme and hope that we can comply with the new conditions for receiving the FiT. We are anxious to be able to promote green energy, even at the reduced FiT rate, as we will then be able to contribute to a more sustainable system of power which can be used by all. We want to take God's gift of energy and offer it back in a way that does not damage the environment."

The parish of St George's, Gloucester was the first across the three dioceses to have PV panels fitted on the roof of the church and the vicarage.

The Revd David Smith said: "We are fortunate that our Church and church hall form one building complex. All are fed from the same electricity supply, so that the solar power generated can be used throughout the week, both in the church and the hall as required. This will allow us to keep costs down for the many community, youth, and children's groups which use the buildings each week, while also reducing our carbon footprint and helping the environment."

For more information on the Diocese of Gloucester, see: www.gloucester.anglican.org

To learn more about Shrinking the Footprint go to: www.shrinkingthefootprint.org