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Almost £300m was invested in commercial-scale independent renewable energy projects by businesses, communities, farmers and landowners last year, new figures reveal.

The statistics compiled by SmartestEnergy for this year’s Energy Entrepreneurs Report show 843 new projects, with an average cost of £353,000 each, came on supply.

The 2,930 non-Big Six projects of over 50kW capacity now in operation across the country can generate almost 20TWh of electricity a year, close to meeting the entire power needs of the UK’s public sector.

The 40.4% increase in the number of new projects and 31.9% increase in capacity compared to last year’s Energy Entrepreneurs Report highlights the scale of appetite for investing in renewable energy currently.

With a combined capacity of just over 6.2 gigawatts, independent sites - ranging from community wind turbines on remote Scottish islands to onsite generation facilities at major manufacturing plants –are together equivalent to several large traditional power stations.

The Energy Entrepreneurs Report figures also show:

  • Independent projects capable of generating £997m worth of energy a year
  • Total volume generated is enough to power 4.67 million households, up 19 per cent on 2012
  • The £297.6m new investment in projects takes total investment in the sector to £1.6bn
  • Onshore wind accounts for 45% of all independent generation
  • Solar capacity has grown by almost 150%
  • Onsite generation up by more than 25% in a year as businesses look to mitigate rising prices and secure supplies.
  • Manufacturing is most active onsite investor, sites up 35%
  • The number of community-owned projects has risen by 29%
  • Farm sector sees biggest growth – project numbers up by 80%

Report underlines scale of investment being made

Iain Robertson, SmartestEnergy’s Head of Generation, said the second annual Energy Entrepreneurs Report highlighted the significant economic contribution the independent generation sector was now making as well as helping meet the country’s energy needs and climate change ambitions.

“This year’s report really underlines just how important the independent renewables sector is becoming and the scale of investment being made by energy entrepreneurs.

“More than £1m was invested every working day in 2013 and the 843 new projects commissioned are now having a direct impact on the businesses, communities, landowners and developers behind them.

“Faced with steep rises in energy costs and concerns over security of supply, investing in renewable energy projects is a highly cost-effective way to save money and develop a new income stream.”

Robertson said the introduction of financial subsidy schemes such as the Feed-in Tariff, new funding options and reductions in some technology costs had been a significant factor in the growth seen in the sector in the past two years.