State schools punished for doing the right thing

My research in today’s Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/06/solar-powered-schools-bill-business-rates-rise-england-wales

Schools could face a business rates bill totaling £1.8 million if the Valuation Office Agency goes ahead with plans to remove the exemption for small non-domestic installations.

Of the 74 education authorities in England and Wales that responded to my FOI requests, they were responsible for 821 schools with almost 14,000 kW of solar power capacity installed. Scaling that up to all 174 education authorities suggests a total business rates bill in the region of £1,800,000 per year.

It’s utterly absurd to penalise schools for investing in solar panels. Schools obviously face bigger financial challenges than this, but the business rate charges will stop any plans for more solar panels. Schools I have visited see them as a triple investment – in their energy costs, their pupils’ education, and their future.

My research shows there is huge scope for schools to install more solar panels. While some schools have installed panels on most of their buildings, many currently have few or none at all. The Government should ditch these plans to charge rates on small solar installations and support more schools to join the clean energy revolution.

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