The government has unveiled a £10m fund set up to help communities generate their own power through shared ownership renewables projects.
Communities in England will receive shares of the Urban Community Energy Fund to build solar parks and wind farms in an effort to generate local electricity, saving money and cutting carbon.
The government’s Community Energy Strategy, announced on Monday, outlines plans to support community energy generation and other measures aimed at helping vulnerable customers and improve energy efficiency through community support.
Energy secretary Ed Davey said, “The cost of energy is now a major consideration for household budgets, and I want to encourage groups of people across the country to participate in a community energy movement and take real control of their energy bills.
“Community led action, such as collective switching, gives people the power to bring down bills and encourage competition within the energy market.”
The strategy has been welcomed by the renewables industry and the Community Energy Coalition – whose members include the Co-operative, the National Trust, the Women’s Institute and the Church of England – who say the launch of the strategy is an important step in the right direction.
Meanwhile, Julia Groves, managing director of renewables investment platform Trillion Fund, said, “Through buying shares or bonds in renewables projects, people can become the owners of their own clean power generation and have a financial interest in its success.
“This is more important than ever at a time when the major utilities are focusing their efforts on shale gas and nuclear power.”
The government decided to launch the strategy after finding out that the majority of people supported community energy projects and would join one if it helped them save money.
Environmental campaigners also praised the initiative. Friends of the Earth’s planning campaigner Naomi Luhde-Thompson said, “This new pot of money is a useful first step in helping more people to generate their own clean power, but more needs to be done if we’re going to make community projects more than a sideshow in the UK’s energy mix.
“Ministers should also require larger energy developments to have mandatory share offers for local people – making energy bills more affordable for many of us.”