Local authorities are missing out on free expert advice as part of a new government initiative on renewable energy.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) has assembled a network of expert advisors to help local authority planning officers tackle renewable energy schemes, however a lack of interest from local authorities has placed the scheme’s future in doubt.

The Renewables Expert Support Network launched earlier this month, in association with Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG), and aims to help planning officers develop renewable energy policies and to offer advice on schemes with a renewable energy element of over 50kW.

The network is being piloted until the end of March 2009, but could be continued on a permanent basis, if successful. This could also lead to an expansion of the expert network.

The network consists of industry experts from a variety of backgrounds who can provide free, independent and impartial advice, to local authority planners on policy and development control across England.

Network members are even paid a daily rate of up to £87 per hour, £325 per half hour and £650 per full day.

There are two levels of support depending on the nature of the query:

• Up to half-a-day’s worth of specific advice via telephone and follow-up e-mail – allowing for research, follow-up clarification and a more detailed response

• Up to one-day’s worth of detailed support (not necessarily contiguously) via telephone and e-mail – for more complex queries and allowing for in-depth research, further clarification and a detailed response

The scheme aims to provide the majority of advice over email and telephone, however more complex queries may warrant a face-to-face meeting or site visit.

Mike O’Brian, energy and climate change minister, said: “We recognise planning is a key challenge to increasing the amount of green projects in the UK which is why we are trialing a new Renewables Expert Support Network. The Government has pledged to dramatically increase the amount of energy generated from green sources. This will help in the fight against climate change and further secure our energy supplies.”