Monthly archives: December 2010

Firm focuses on renewable energy sector with new team

A Westcountry law firm has created a new dedicated team to provide specialist advice on the renewable energy sector for the region’s farmers, land and property owners.

With the rapid growth in this market and the South West designated the UK’s first Low Carbon Economic Area, Stephens Scown has taken the step of appointing Sonya Bedford (pictured) as its new Head of Renewable Energy.

The specialist group, made up of experienced property, corporate and planning lawyers, are able to give legal advice on a range of matters including agricultural tenancies and compensation for loss of farming activities, options, leases and contractual issues.

The announcement comes as the firm, which has offices in Exeter, Truro and St Austell, launches a new specialist guide on solar energy, aimed at farmers and landowners, available on its website.

The sector is estimated to contribute around £215 million to the economy every year – many farmers and landowners are being approached by renewable energy providers and might be considering diversifying or supplementing their income, following the introduction of feed-in tariffs earlier this year.

Commenting on the new team, Sonya Bedford said, “Increasingly we’re acting for clients with a really diverse range of needs in the renewable energy sector – this includes local farmers and landowners, domestic property owners, major wind farm developers and operators, as well assisting villages or communities across the region to install wind turbines or solar panels. We are also involved in advising on property issues surrounding the Wave Hub site in Hayle.”

She added, “Working with local planning experts, accountants and other financial advisers, it makes sense to bring together all our expertise in one place to provide a more rounded service for clients. Here in the South West, because of our geographic position we’re really lucky to be able to harness the natural energy that surrounds us and renewable energy is ideally suited to rural areas.”

Sonya is an experienced senior agricultural and commercial property lawyer and is a member of Stephens Scown’s rural team. She is a Member of the Agricultural Law Association, a member of Regen SW and a Professional Member of the CLA and Member of Women in Property.

She added, “Landowners can reap the financial rewards that renewable energy brings but it’s equally important that people get the right advice to protect their assets. It’s a development area that many people are starting to explore, but can be easily caught out by the small print or enter into agreements without seeking proper professional advice.”

For more help or advice on renewable energy, contact Sonya Bedford on 01392 210700 or email or visit

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September 28 2010

For more information contact:

Ryan Martinez
Deborah Clark Associates
Tel: 01208 77900

UK farmers have been able to benefit from feed-in tariffs but as the government plans to review the sum paid for solar energy in 2012, now is the time to invest. The British government introduced feed-in tariffs under the guise of the Clean Energy Cash back scheme back in April and was designed as a way of boosting investment in solar photovoltaic (pv) energy which would help the UK meet climate change targets through the reduction of carbon emissions.

The feed-in tariff works by offering guaranteed, premium rates for units of energy both used and fed back into the grid from small scale solar pv generators. Where they have been implemented elsewhere, they have proved to be very effective mechanisms at incentivising investment in what were once expensive projects. However, government plans to reduce the rate of energy paid to solar pv generators after 2012 means that now is the time for UK farmers to take full advantage of the profits from solar panels.

Many landowners are already taking advantage of the tariff rate which guarantees a rate of 29.3p/kWh for units of energy generated from their solar panels. Certainly, with projects lasting for 25 years, there will be some very healthy profits to be made, something which has not gone unnoticed within the industry. Regen South West are just one example of solar energy specialists involved in rural solar projects. Chief Executive Merlin Hyman has described such projects as an ‘exciting opportunity’ and that they can offer,

“Essentially it is a guaranteed income for 25 years with a better return than if you were to put money in the bank at the moment. But it needs to be in the right place and on the right sites.”

The emphasis of finding the right sites has been echoed throughout the industry. Also, there has been a focus on the need to avoid fly by night installers keen to make a quick Buck and run in the great UK solar Klondike.

This is a view supported by solar pv exponents, Mole Valley Farmers who have their own demonstration solar site set up on their director’s land and are offering open day invites. Business Development Manager at Mole Valley, Andy Taplin has warned that,

“We are aware of lots of businesses popping up and calling themselves solar energy experts, what we’re trying to do is prevent businesses profiteering from our members.

Going on to add, “our main concern is that for these investments to work the solar panels need to last for 25 years to profit from the feed-in tariff — Mole Valley Farmers will be here in 25 years’ time, but I’m not sure some of these solar panel companies will be around once the gold rush is over.”

Germany, perhaps the greatest success story for solar energy and a leading exponent and pioneer of the now widely employed feed-in tariff is seriously considering re-thinking its backing of renewable energy. Cuts in German feed-in tariffs while not welcomed by solar investors or those simply looking to make a quick Euro in green energy, are of course necessary and an important mechanism in regulating what can be an explosive sector.

Feed-in tariffs work by offering fixed, premium rates for renewable energy generated and used by small scale generation projects. While Germany has been a world leader in solar energy generation on the back of generous tariffs, it now seems that it in the current climate of austerity, the German government is perhaps rethinking its legislative bias towards green energy projects.

In a statement issued by Environment minister Norbert Roettgen, it certainly appears that the current stance is unequivocally pragmatic when it comes to backing solar energy over more traditional fuel sources. Indeed, pragmatism turned Teutonic bluntness when questioned on plans to further reinforce legislation designed at boosting solar investment,

“We’re in talks with the solar power sector to come to a reasonable further development. Those who want renewable energy should keep in mind that there is a need for society’s acceptance of it,”

Of course, while there is a need to regulate the the solar market in order to prevent a situation similar to Spain where the market became saturated, the fact remains that feed-in tariffs do not come out of the public funds. Instead, they come from the big utility companies obliged by legislation to purchase the units of renewable energy at the rate set by the tariff. This goes to add weight to the argument against reducing tariffs too drastically in Germany. Certainly, protectionism of certain industries at the expense of others is questionable but the figures for renewable energy in Germany speak for themselves.

Reports from the German finance ministry have shown that the revenue from renewable manufacturers alone came to over 16 billion Euros in 2009. In the same year around 294,000 Germans were employed in renewable energy with 64,000 of these working in solar energy. With these employment figures in mind and the fact that in Germany there is a real appetite for renewable energy investment, it would be politically naïve for any government to make too dramatic a cutback to tariff rates, even during these times of draconian spending measures.