Commercial-scale renewable energy projects developed by businesses, communities, farmers and the public sector are now generating £768m worth of electricity a year - enough to power 3.9 million households, according to new figures.

Investment in independent generation has risen sharply with a 24% jump in live projects in a year as soaring energy bills see more businesses and organisations look to cut costs and profit from high wholesale prices.

The statistics compiled by SmartestEnergy for the Energy Entrepreneur 2013 report show there were 2,011 commercial-scale independent renewable generation projects of over 50kW capacity across Great Britain operating at the end of 2012.

With a combined capacity of just over 4.7 gigawatts, the sites - ranging from community wind turbines on the Scottish islands to onsite generation facilities at major manufacturing plants - are together equivalent to several large traditional power stations.

The figures also show:

  • Onsite projects developed by businesses rose by 53% during 2012 and generated more than £80m worth of electricity
  • Larger farm-based schemes up by 74% to 347, now generating over £22m a year
  • Public sector projects powering schools, universities and council buildings up by 25% and worth £8m a year
  • Commercial-scale independent generation capacity rose by 10% in 2012
  • Independents now make up 12% of total renewable generation in GB
  • Wind accounts for more capacity than any other technology
  • Solar most popular technology for onsite investment

Iain Robertson, SmartestEnergy’s Head of Generation, said the Energy Entrepreneur report highlighted the sustained growth being seen across the independent generation sector which also includes renewables developers, waste companies and water suppliers.

“Rising energy prices and the introduction of financial subsidy schemes such as the Feed-in Tariff have sparked huge interest in the development of independent renewable generation projects in recent years,” said Robertson.

“For businesses and organisations faced with steep rises in energy costs, investing in their own renewable energy projects can generate significant savings and help them remain competitive.

“Consumers are also increasingly interested in the sustainability of companies whose products they buy and investing in renewable energy can be used to highlight environmental credentials.

“The combined strength of a large number of these projects will also play an important role in helping the country meet its climate change targets in the years ahead.”