Charities and Co-operatives urge government not to pull the plug on large community energy projects
Organisations with more than 12 million members today (7 February) urged the Government to fulfil its commitments and avoid pulling the plug on larger community owned energy schemes.
The membership organisations, which include: The Co-operative; the National Trust; and Transition Network amongst others, believe that the Energy Bill currently before Parliament threatens to prevent community owned energy from meeting its full potential.
As the Bill has progressed through Parliament, Liberal Democrat Minister Ed Davey, Conservative Minister Greg Barker and frontbench Labour MPs have all championed the community approach to energy ownership. However, the Bill itself includes no supportive policy measures.
The organisations, which last year formed the Community Energy Coalition, have written to Ministers and MPs on the Public Bill Committee to ask that this vocal support is reflected in the Bill.
They believe the Energy Bill should allow larger community projects to access feed-in tariffs by raising the cap on generation capacity from 5MW to 20MW. Currently schemes over 5MW would be subject to the proposed ‘contracts for difference’ scheme, which was designed for large commercial developers and entails far greater complexity. They are also calling for the Bill to place a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to promote new community owned clean energy generation.
Research commissioned by The Co-operative has shown that two out of three people who would oppose wind turbines near their home would change their mind if they belonged to the community.
Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals at The Co-operative, said: “Just as communities are starting to set up and run their own clean energy projects on a larger scale, such as The Co-operative Bank financed Lochcarnan Community Windfarm in Scotland, the Energy Bill threatens to prevent any such projects with community control and benefit ever happening again. The Government has made a strong commitment to community energy and we hope measures can be introduced so the Bill doesn’t stifle the ambitions of this vibrant and growing sector.”
Rob Hopkins from the Transition Network said "Community energy has the potential to be one of the key foundations of community-led economic regeneration, and the building of community resilience. We know that community energy works, and we know the benefits it can bring. Maximising the opportunities for communities to invest in their own energy and their own future is vital to the future. Contracts for Difference would be an excessive administrative headache for community projects largely dependent on passionate and dedicated volunteers. If we are to maximise this potential, we need to keep it simple".
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.”
1)Recommended amendments to Energy Bill:
i. The Bill should place a duty on the Secretary of State to promote new renewable energy generation capacity from community schemes
ii. The fixed Feed-in Tariff scheme should be extended. The current cap of 5MW should be increased to 20MW in order to allow community energy schemes a guaranteed income and enable them to participate effectively in the energy market
iii. The Bill should establish a market for community energy schemes and independent renewables generators, through the creation of a ‘green power auction market’ or similar mechanism
For more detail see the attached Energy Bill and Community Energy joint policy position paper.
2) Organisations endorsing the Energy Bill joint position paper and recommendations: The Co-operative Group; National Trust; Transition Network; WWF-UK; Greenpeace; Co-operatives UK; Community Energy Scotland; Low Carbon Communities Network; Energy4All; Forum for the Future; Climate Change Action Alliance; Carbon Leapfrog and Haringey Council.
3) An ICM opinion poll commissioned by The Co-operative in October 2012 found that 49% of the UK public would support wind turbines within two miles of their home, whilst 22% would not. This increases to a significant 68% in support if the scheme is owned by and benefits the community, whilst opposition falls to just 7%.
4) For more information on the Community Energy Coalition see: http://www.forumforthefuture.org/project/community-energy-coalition/overview