Request information to support award of grant from public funds to SEPEL for South East Weirpower project

Mike Post made this Freedom of Information request to Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead,

A report, “Developing Weirpower”, was presented to the Royal
Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) Cabinet on 24 October
2012. Members were updated on the European Regional Development
Fund (ERDF) hydropower grant application.

The minutes of the RBWM Sustainability Panel on 13 November 2012
confirm that the RBWM Cabinet on the 24 October 2012
had given delegated authority to accept a £940,700 ERDF grant to
support development of hydropower, which had been match funded by
SouthEast Power Engineering Ltd (SEPEL) and the Environment Agency.

The report to the RBWM Cabinet on 24 October had indicated that of
the £940,700 ERDF grant, £145,500 was to go to the Environment
Agency and SEPEL for studies e.g. fish monitoring studies, £145,000
was to go to SEPEL for knowledge transfer of hydropower, £75,000
was to go to SEPEL and others for supply chain development and
£93,980 was to go to SEPEL for other capital costs of hydropower
sites. In return, SEPEL was to provide £738,450 “match funding” of
the part capital costs of hydropower sites.

I understand from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) that the grant has yet to be awarded.

On 26 January 2013, SEPEL’s Annual Returns stated that it had £304
cash, current liabilities of £104,511 and a book value of minus
£88,798.(Source DUEDIL)

In October 2012, in an article, “On Her Majesty’s Service” in the magazine, “International Water Power & Dam Construction” http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/0ba7... , David Dechambeau, Chief Executive of SEPEL, wrote, “The turbines at Windsor Castle are unique in several ways and we have been awarded a grant from the European Union Redevelopment Fund (sic) (ERDF) to study the developments and improvements we have made to the
technology.” To be clear, SEPEL’s Chief Executive wrote in October 2012 that SEPEL had been awarded a ERDF grant (public money) to study the developments and improvements that SEPEL had already made to the technology.

SEPEL took over the hydropower development at Romney Weir, Windsor,in early 2009. This followed the withdrawal of the well-funded and experienced npower which had written to the RBWM that there were still significant challenges in
making Romney Weir hydropower a viable asset. In 2009 SEPEL wrote on its website, “Construction [of the Romney Weir hydropower plant]will take place in 2009 and the system will be commissioned and become operational in late 2009.”
http://sepengineering.com/index.php?opti...

The Romney Weir plant was still not generating commercial electricity in February 2013, over three years later than predicted by SEPEL.

According to SEPEL’s website, David Dechambeau is described thus: “He has spent his career in the design, construction and operation of geographically dispersed projects. Most recently he was responsible for the design and construction methods for the first hydropower system on the River Thames at the Romney Weir just below Windsor Castle.”On the Projects page of the SEPEL website it is stated: “Southeast Power Engineering has a variety of projects underway or under investigation in the UK, Europe and the USA.” On the Home page it is stated: “By selecting appropriate technology and utilizing creative construction techniques, Southeast Power Engineering is leading the way in developing carbon free power and developing the natural resources in the UK, Europe and the USA, in environmentally sound ways.” When he made a presentation in Marlow on 7 March 2013, David Dechambeau was asked to name the other projects that he had completed or which were in progress (as suggested by the SEPEL website and his business and social media entries). He said that the (unfinished) Romney Weir, Windsor Castle project was the only one.

I am advised by the Department for Communities and Local Government that the applicant for the proposed South East Hydropower project is the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and SEPEL is one of the delivery partners. As set out in Section 3 of The National ERDF Handbook the organisation leading the bid, i.e. the Royal Borough, will be fully and legally responsible, and therefore financially liable, for the delivery, monitoring and compliance of the whole project. It is for the lead partner, in this case the Royal Borough, to take the appropriate steps to ensure that delivery partners have the necessary reserves and expertise to deliver their elements of the project.

Can you please therefore inform me about the due diligence that the RBWM has carried
out to confirm:

1. that SEPEL is capable of match funding £738,450.

2. that SEPEL and its officers have the qualifications, experience, expertise and proven track record, including the portfolio of hydropower projects in the USA, Europe and the UK reported on SEPEL’s website, to justify payment of £145,000 for hydropower knowledge transfer, £145,500 (shared with the EA) for studies and £75,000 for hydropower supply chain development. It is material that the Chief Executive of SEPEL, when asked at Bisham Parish Council on 15 April 2013 what his qualifications were, replied that he had none, he said he was a developer.

3. that it is appropriate to award £93,980 of public funds to SEPEL for "other capital costs".

4. that the ERDF grant that Mr Dechambeau says in his magazine article has been awarded to SEPEL “to study the developments and improvements that we [SEPEL] have made to the technology” is the same ERDF grant that has yet to be awarded to the RBWM? If so, is it appropriate to award public money to SEPEL, especially to study developments
and improvements to the technology that SEPEL has already made?

Yours faithfully,

Mike Post

Chris Daniels, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

Dear Mr Post

 

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your request for information.

 

It has been allocated reference FOI65003

 

The Freedom of Information Act provides public authorities with 20 working
days to process requests.

 

This period expires on 4 June 2013

 

 

In addition to sending our response directly to you, please be advised
that RBWM publishes all requests and responses on its website –
requestor’s details are not published.

 

Regards

 

 

Chris Daniels

Information Management Officer

Legal Services

Operations Directorate

Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead

Town Hall, St Ives Road

Maidenhead SL6 1RF

 

 

 

show quoted sections

 

Dear Chris Daniels,

I see my request for information to support award of grant from public funds to SEPEL for South East Weirpower project has been categorised by the RBWM as a "Planning" issue.

With respect, it is not a planning issue. It is an issue about the proposed expenditure of £940,700 of public funds as sanctioned by the RBWM's "Big Society" Panel.

Please treat the request appropriately.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Post

Chris Daniels, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

Dear Mr Post

 

Further to your Information request ER65003 please find your questions and
our responses below:

 

A report, “Developing Weirpower”, was presented to the Royal Borough of
Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) Cabinet on 24 October 2012. Members were
updated on the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) hydropower grant
application.

    

The minutes of the RBWM Sustainability Panel on 13 November 2012 confirm
that the RBWM Cabinet on the 24 October 2012 had given delegated authority
to accept a £940,700 ERDF grant to support development of hydropower,
which had been match funded by SouthEast Power Engineering Ltd (SEPEL) and
the Environment Agency.

    

The report to the RBWM Cabinet on 24 October had indicated that of the
£940,700 ERDF grant, £145,500 was to go to the Environment Agency and
SEPEL for studies e.g. fish monitoring studies, £145,000 was to go to
SEPEL for knowledge transfer of hydropower, £75,000 was to go to SEPEL and
others for supply chain development and £93,980 was to go to SEPEL for
other capital costs of hydropower sites. In return, SEPEL was to provide
£738,450 “match funding” of the part capital costs of hydropower sites.

    

I understand from the Department for Communities and Local Government
(DCLG) that the grant has yet to be awarded.

    

On 26 January 2013, SEPEL’s Annual Returns stated that it had £304 cash,
current liabilities of £104,511 and a book value of minus £88,798.(Source
DUEDIL)

    

In October 2012, in an article, “On Her Majesty’s Service” in the
magazine, “International Water Power & Dam Construction”
[1]http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/0ba7... , David
Dechambeau, Chief Executive of SEPEL, wrote, “The turbines at Windsor
Castle are unique in several ways and we have been awarded a grant from
the European Union Redevelopment Fund (sic) (ERDF) to study the
developments and improvements we have made to the technology.” To be
clear, SEPEL’s Chief Executive wrote in October 2012 that SEPEL had been
awarded a ERDF grant (public money) to study the developments and
improvements that SEPEL had already made to the technology.

    

SEPEL took over the hydropower development at Romney Weir, Windsor,in
early 2009. This followed the withdrawal of the well-funded and
experienced npower which had written to the RBWMthat there were still
significant challenges in making Romney Weir hydropower a viable asset. In
2009 SEPEL wrote on its website, “Construction [of the Romney Weir
hydropower plant]will take place in 2009 and the system will be
commissioned and become operational in late 2009.”

    
[2]http://sepengineering.com/index.php?opti...

The Romney Weir plant was still not generating commercial electricity in
February 2013, over three years later than predicted by SEPEL.

    

According to SEPEL’s website, David Dechambeau is described thus: “He has
spent his career in the design, construction and operation of
geographically dispersed projects. Most recently he was responsible for
the design and construction methods for the first hydropower system on the
River Thames at the Romney Weir just below Windsor Castle.”On the Projects
page of the SEPEL website it is stated: “Southeast Power Engineering has a
variety of projects

underway or under investigation in the UK, Europe and the USA.” On the
Home page it is stated: “By selecting appropriate technology and utilizing
creative construction techniques, Southeast Power Engineering is leading
the way in developing carbon free power and developing the natural
resources in the UK, Europe and the USA, in environmentally sound ways.”
When he made a presentation in Marlow on 7 March 2013, David Dechambeau
was asked to name the other projects that he had completed or which were
in progress (as

suggested by the SEPEL website and his business and social media entries).
He said that the (unfinished) Romney Weir, Windsor Castle project was the
only one.

    

I am advised by the Department for Communities and Local Government that
the applicant for the proposed South East Hydropower project is the Royal
Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and SEPEL is one of the delivery
partners. As set out in Section 3 of The National ERDF Handbook the
organisation leading the bid, i.e. the Royal Borough, will be fully and
legally responsible, and therefore financially liable, for the delivery,
monitoring and compliance of the whole project. It is for the lead
partner, in this case the Royal Borough, to take the appropriate steps to
ensure that delivery partners have the necessary reserves and expertise to
deliver their elements of the project.

    

Can you please therefore inform me about the due diligence that the RBWM
has carried out to confirm:

    

1. that SEPEL is capable of match funding £738,450.

 

Response: I have been advised that Match funding of ERDF projects has to
be compliant with ERDF regulations, and is subject to inspection and
audit.  SEPEL’s expenditure on Romney weir provides the match funding of
£738,450 identified, and is sufficient for this purpose.

 

    

2. that SEPEL and its officers have the qualifications, experience,
expertise and proven track record, including the portfolio of hydropower
projects in the USA, Europe and the UK reported on SEPEL’s website, to
justify payment of £145,000 for hydropower knowledge transfer, £145,500
(shared with the EA) for studies and £75,000 for hydropower supply chain
development. It is material that the Chief Executive of SEPEL, when asked
at Bisham Parish Council on 15 April 2013 what his qualifications were,
replied that he had none, he said he was a developer.

 

Response: ERDF projects are funded through a competitive application
process.  The South East Hydropower project was developed in response to a
call for applications, in March 2011, to promote onshore renewable energy
in the South East, and improve the competitiveness of the region.  The
hydropower development at Romney weir provides an opportunity for
learning, and SEPEL has made available the site for this purpose.  The
award of EU funding to SEPEL will support jobs and growth in RBWM and the
South East, and is a good example of the intended use of ERDF funding.

 

    

3. that it is appropriate to award £93,980 of public funds to SEPEL for
"other capital costs".

 

Response: See answer to 2. above.

 

    

4. that the ERDF grant that Mr Dechambeau says in his magazine article has
been awarded to SEPEL “to study the developments and improvements that we
[SEPEL] have made to the technology” is the same ERDF grant that has yet
to be awarded to the RBWM? If so, is it appropriate to award public money
to SEPEL, especially to study developments and improvements to the
technology that SEPEL has already made?

 

Response: ERDF projects are funded through a competitive application
process.  The South East Hydropower project was developed in response to a
call for applications, in March 2011, to promote onshore renewable energy
in the South East, and improve the competitiveness of the region.  A
provisional award was made to RBWM in November 2011, and negotiations have
been continuing to ensure the project is compliant with ERDF rules.  The
award of ERDF grant to SEPEL is contingent on the South East Hydropower
project being contracted, and SEPEL is acting on its own risk in studying
the developments and improvements they have made to technology.

 

 

This concludes your request ER65003.

 

If you require translation of the information you have been sent please do
not hesitate the contact us.

 

If you are unhappy with the information we have provided in response to
your request please write to:

 

Information Management Team Manager

Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead

Town Hall, St Ives Road

Maidenhead

SL6 1RF

 

or send an e-mail to [email address].uk 

 

We are proud to be one of the leading authorities in England for
consistently responding to information requests within the 20 working days
set down by statute. Information about our performance and summaries of
requests received can be found on our website:

 

[3]http://www.rbwm.gov.uk/web/foi_informati...

 

 

We are keen to hear about your experience with the Information Management
Team here at the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead and look forward to
receiving any comments you have about the way your information request was
processed.

 

Please send any feedback to the Information Management Team Manager either
by e-mail [email address] or in writing to the address above.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Chris Daniels

Information Management Officer

Legal Department

Corporate Directorate

Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead

Town Hall, St.Ives Road

Maidenhead SL6 1RF

 

show quoted sections

Dear Chris Daniels,

Thank you for your response to my FOI request.I am away on holiday until the middle of June and will reply more fully when I return home.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Post