Changes in business rates has resulted in, 92% of Wales’ community hydro energy projects see an increase in their business rates, some by as much as 900%.
Now in a letter to members of the National Assembly’s Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs committee the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Lesley Griffiths admits that hydropower schemes have been disproportionately affected by non-domestic rates revaluation.
Plaid Cymru Assembly Members Simon Thomas and Sian Gwenllian met with hydro business leaders in July to discuss the issue and have consistently pressed the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay to improve the situation over business rates.
During Environment questions on (Wednesday 20 September 2017) Simon Thomas quizzed the Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths about the issue.
Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Climate Change and Rural Affairs Simon Thomas said:
“The Welsh Government should be really concerned about this situation. It says that it wants Wales to be a green nation, and community hydro projects are crucial in making that happen. But its changes to business rates are making these projects unprofitable. This money would have been re-invested into the local community.
“The Welsh Government needs to introduce a business rate relief scheme for community hydro schemes so that our rural communities can continue to benefit and increase the amount of renewable energy we produce.
“The SNP Scottish Government introduced a similar scheme. The Labour Government here now needs to follow suit, and quickly before some of these schemes fail.
“It seems that one hand of Welsh Government does not know what the other is doing because while they are supporting hydro-electric schemes through the Local Energy service they are taking away money from the community projects through the business rates system.
“These type of energy projects that give so much back to their communities have to be supported by government if we are ever to reach a zero carbon Wales.”
Simon Hamlyn, Chief Executive Officer of the British Hydropower Association added:
“The British Hydropower Association [BHA] is very pleased that Mr Thomas questioned Lesley Griffiths over the serious matter of the totally unjustifiable business rates increases for hydropower. The BHA has written to Mr Drakeford on numerous occasions about the severe impact the 2017 revaluation is having on the hydropower sector, but to date no proposals have been bought forward by Welsh Government for a long-term solution.
“The BHA met with Lesley Griffiths on the 5th of July where the issue of business rates was raised and a commitment was made by the Cabinet Secretary to meet with Mr Drakeford during the summer recess to discuss the issue and seek a solution. The BHA has recently written to Lesley Griffiths to learn the outcome of that meeting, as we are keen to know what solution is being considered to address the problem and when it will be implemented.
“The BHA is very much aware of the consultation launch recently on a permanent business rates relief scheme to which we will respond, but as the BHA has pointed out on several occasions to Welsh Government, rounds of relief is not the solution. There needs to be a permanent solution to address this problem and it is needed sooner, rather than later.”