A coalition of civil society organisations with over 12 million members is urging all MPs to support community-owned and controlled renewable projects in today’s Energy Bill debate. They are concerned that the draft Energy Bill would stifle the growth of the burgeoning community energy sector if changes are not made.
The group which includes: The Co-operative; the National Trust; the National Federation of Women’s Institutes; Transition Towns; and Groundwork, have written to all MPs asking them to support a community approach to the UK’s future energy needs.
The group believes that community ownership of energy projects empowers communities to collectively decide upon and run their own energy projects in locally appropriate ways. It also benefits the local economy by keeping the profits generated within the community, often being spent on tackling fuel poverty or other social problems.
The MPs have been contacted as the Energy Bill is debated in Parliament today (December 19). The organisations are concerned that the legislation has been designed for large commercial developers and could exclude communities from participating in the new energy market.
In Germany, an estimated 15% of all renewable electricity generation is owned by local communities, with over 600 energy cooperatives. In the UK this is around 1% but there are hundreds of energy groups with plans to generate renewable power.
Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals at The Co-operative, said: “Communities across the UK stand ready to lead a community energy revolution but their opportunity to grow could be extinguished if the Energy Bill stays as it is. Community energy must be treated fairly in electricity market reform and allowed to flourish as it has elsewhere in Europe.
“Community ownership is proven to increase public support for local renewable energy projects, which is vital if the UK is to meet its energy and climate objectives. A recent opinion poll we commissioned found that opposition to projects, including wind turbines, drops from 22% to just 7% if the project belongs to the community.”
Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprise Director at the National Trust said “We know that when communities secure a stake in energy projects they are much more reassured that their own beautiful local landscapes and villages that they love can embrace the proposals. Community energy can help empower local people to take control of their own energy futures and in a style that maintains and even enhances what makes local places special and cherished. We want to work with the Government to support a big increase in community owned renewable energy and energy efficiency schemes.”