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Community Energy Strategy: the reaction



The government has boosted local renewable energy projects with the unveiling of a £10m fund to help communities generate their own power, saving money and cutting carbon. Here is the pick of the reaction to the news.

Click here to read more about the strategy.

Ed Davey, energy and climate change secretary

We’re at the turning point in developing true community energy. 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.

Greg Barker, energy and climate change minister

The Community Energy Strategy marks a change in the way we approach powering our homes and businesses – bringing communities together and helping them save money – and make money, too.

The coalition is determined to unleash this potential, assist communities to achieve their ambitions and drive forward the decentralised energy revolution. We want to help more consumers of energy to become producers of energy and in doing so help to break the grip of the dominant big energy companies.

Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association (REA)

We are delighted that the government is really serious about helping ordinary people become active participants in the energy economy. People are beginning to rethink energy, seeing that it doesn’t have to be expensive and polluting, and that they can even supply clean energy themselves. This is why we are seeing such excellent growth in the number of community energy companies.

We are looking forward to starting this dialogue with the community energy sector. We are confident that greater community engagement and investment in commercial project development will accelerate renewables deployment and the benefits that brings to society – mitigating climate risks, reducing dependence on energy imports and creating jobs in the green economy.

Communities should benefit directly from renewables development as well. Local benefits can take many forms, from new jobs and exclusive investment opportunities to self-supply of renewable heat, electricity, transport fuels and fertilisers.

Julia Groves, managing director of Trillion Fund

The launch of today’s strategy will give people wanting to invest in community energy projects more confidence that they are not throwing their money into a black hole.

With returns typically ranging from between 3- 6%, community renewable energy projects not only reduce bills and increase energy security for locals, they also offer steady, long-term, income generating and asset-backed investments that beat inflation.

They can offer everyone – not just people local to the projects – a meaningful, sustainable financial stake in the future of energy, something which fracking, nuclear and fossil fuel energies cannot boast.

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.

To those who say renewables do not work, we would say: go and ask communities with renewables installed. We are willing to bet there are fewer nimbys objecting to wind and solar than there are those opposing fracking rigs – and as more people realise the benefits of community renewables, there will be even fewer.

Russell Gill, head of membership and social goals at the Co-operative

The government’s new strategy is positive news for the vibrant and growing community energy sector. As its supportive measures are realised, we are optimistic that a huge increase in community and co-operatively owned projects will be forthcoming, giving people the ability to bring down household energy bills.

We have worked closely with government on the strategy’s development and are pleased to see the barriers to expansion we highlighted being addressed. We look forward to continuing to work with government and the other members of the Community Energy Coalition to champion co-operative solutions to the energy and climate change challenges we face, and congratulate the tens of thousands of Co-operative members and customers who have campaigned for this strategy to be brought about.

Giles Bristow, director of programmes at Forum for the Future

The publication of this strategy marks an important step by government towards enabling community organisations to realise the opportunity we now have to progress widespread community ownership of energy. This sector must grasp this opportunity and help create the big shift we urgently need to a clean, fair and desirable energy system. If we do work together, the vision of 1m homes being fully community powered and saving huge amounts of energy, carbon and money is there for the taking.

Nick Clack, senior energy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England

Community energy has the potential to play a critical role in reducing the impact of our energy needs on the countryside and delivering low-carbon energy. Today’s announcement is a promising first step, but there’s a long way to go if communities are to overcome the financial and regulatory barriers they face in running and getting projects off the ground.

Robust and sustained support from the government is essential and while the current proposals are encouraging, they don’t yet go far enough. In particular, we need to see much more direct funding for communities to improve their energy efficiency. Increasing energy efficiency is a cost-effective way of meeting our low-carbon energy requirements whilst protecting the countryside.

Will Cottrell, chairman of Brighton Energy Co-op

The new community energy fund is exactly the kind of innovative assistance that will help projects like Brighton Energy Co-op to grow.

By helping communities help themselves the government is providing a valuable service – creating energy independence and supporting the delivery of cheap, green energy to UK communities nationwide.

Naomi Luhde-Thompson, planning campaigner at Friends of the Earth

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.

Imagine whole streets and villages producing their own energy with wind and solar power, creating jobs while helping to tackle climate change – it’s possible within the next few years if the government removes the barriers.

This year ministers should also require larger energy developments to have mandatory share offers for local people – making energy bills more affordable for many of us.

Jemma Benson, fund manager at CO2Sense

This strategy will provide further confidence to communities already actively developing their own energy generation schemes. The new support programmes announced will hopefully be important in removing some of the key barriers to projects. Its pragmatic approach is to be welcomed. However, stable policy and long-term certainty around incentives will be an important backdrop to the strategy to ensure the opportunity can be realised.

Patrick Begg, rural enterprise director at the National Trust

The National Trust welcomes the government’s community energy strategy. At a time of rapidly rising energy bills and growing concerns over the impact of energy infrastructure on our precious landscapes, community energy can offer people a chance not only to take more control of their energy – where it comes from and what it costs – but also feel confident that the places they love have not been sacrificed to generate it.

We, like the rest of the Community Energy Coalition, are ready to work with the government to support a big increase in community owned energy and in particular create a step change in energy efficiency schemes. If fully realised, the broad package of policies and the signal of ambition contained in the strategy can be the catalyst for a community energy revolution.

Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the Solar Trade Association (STA)

The public are very concerned by the lack of competition in our energy markets and poll after poll shows they back renewable energy. So it’s great to see the UK government recognise the vast potential for everyday communities to directly own renewable energy and by doing so, to break open our consolidated electricity sector. International experience shows it is bottom-up investment by everyday people and organisations that can really drive renewables. At the same time this gives people real ownership of the energy they depend on, and increases support for local schemes.

No technology democratises ownership of the power sector better than solar. The UK’s solar power output is already owned by half a million solar households and by new independent companies outside the big six utilities, as well as a few thousand businesses and communities. It is clear that solar is already delivering a revolution in ownership, as well as in clean power generation. The further scope for community ownership of solar across the UK is tremendous. However, in practical terms, fulfilling this exciting vision does require government to ensure the feed-in tariff can support the take-off of community-scale schemes.

Further reading:

Why investors should consider community-owned renewables

Top 10 reasons to invest in renewable energy projects

Why investing directly in renewables projects is a worthwhile venture

Harnessing the power of a community

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013


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