What a twisted tale this has been, but there is good news at the end of it. It shows that ambition and vision can still pay off even in these tough times.
The Labour group has been pushing this since October 2010 (when in opposition) on this and once back running the council held the first ever cabinet meeting in Reading to take place in August to give approval to the project. Our desire for haste was right given that the Conservatives (and rumour has it the now disgraced Libdem Chris Huhne) decided to move the goal posts with very little notice. We were an interested party to the Friends of the Earth legal challenge that eventually after the government added to the uncertainty with an appeal was succesful
The last of 2,126 solar panels across 46 sites in Reading were installed by 31st March as part of Reading Borough Council's on going drive to save money and do its bit to help combat the effects of climate change.
I was particularly pleased that residents in many of our sheltered housing developments will benefit given the rises in fuel prices of particular concern to pensioners. I've already been asked about this by tenants and the arrangement is that the reduction in energy consumption will directly benefit tenants in lower bills while the tariff will cover the council's cost of investment. Unfortunately the change in the program means that a future phase where we extend this to other council housing is going to be very challenging to deliver.
Extract from council press release below:
Reading's solar panel project thought to be one of the biggest public sector solar projects in the country - is expected to generate more than 115,000kWh of electricity a year and lower carbon emissions in Reading by 61 tonnes of CO2 - enough to fill 12 hot air balloons.
The panels have been installed on schools, council offices, leisure centres, libraries, private businesses and sheltered housing accommodation across town following a decision by councillors at a Cabinet meeting last August to take advantage of the national Feed In Tariff initiative, which pays owners of renewable energy installations for each unit of renewable electricity generated. This investment is also an important part of Reading Borough Council's climate change strategy.
A total of 17 schools across Reading installed solar panels (see notes to editors), with some schools recording a diary of the installation on their websites and interviewing the installation team from British Gas.
Reading Borough Council's Lead Councillor for Environment and Climate Change, Paul Gittings, said: 'The panels will not only help those involved to save money, small businesses will also improve their 'green' credentials and the high-tech solar equipment can be used as an added educational tool for schools to teach pupils about renewable energy.
'This project shows the Council's commitment to making sure Reading becomes the green energy capital of the country.'
Reading Borough Council's Lead Councillor for Education and Children's services, John Ennis, said: 'This is an exciting time for all the schools involved. Pupils will now be able to see how renewable energy works and hopefully the project inspires our young people to adopt sustainable energy lifestyles in the future.'