DEVELOPMENT of sustainable forms of energy generation could play a vital role in the fight against global warming, says a new report published by Co-operatives UK.
Research by the organisation's New Ventures Panel shows that British co-ops are ideally placed to develop a wide range of renewable energy services and environmentally friendly waste management systems.
And by working in partnership with local authorities and regeneration agencies, they could also help to provide a major new source of income and employment in rural areas.
"Recent research by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution strongly suggests that we need to move away from our reliance on fossil fuels and make better use of renewable sources of energy," said Pauline Green, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK.
"Doing this effectively means developing new forms of energy generation, distribution and storage. Our report shows that small-scale co-operatively run projects supplying local distribution networks, as well as co-operative ownership of larger initiatives could well be the way forward for the future.
"Having looked at a number of innovative and successful energy generation projects already being delivered by co-operatives in the UK, Denmark, Austria and Sweden ? some of them very large ? it is clear that there is considerable scope for UK co-ops to make major long-term investments in fuel production, energy generation and heat supply."
The findings of the report show that co-ops are able to make a considerable contribution to every step of the process, from negotiating planning issues, bringing together partners and seeking funding, to establishing the most appropriate structures to deliver projects, advising on best practice and carrying out joint marketing programmes.
Banks and consumer co-operative societies could play a key role in establishing sources of long-term financing for such future projects, while increased local ownership of community assets would ensure greater accountability as well as a stake in the success of the venture.
Added Dame Pauline: "To take just one good example, as many British farmers are already members of agricultural co-ops, collective access to resources means they could potentially gain considerable benefits from diversification into energy production.
"Our research indicates that British farms could eventually be delivering as much as 524 megawatts of wind capacity while there is also great potential in bio-fuel production."
The report: Energy: the Future Generation ? Co-operative Opportunities is available from: www.cooperatives-uk.coop.
For more information, or to obtain a printed copy, contact Julie Bowers at Co-operatives UK on: 0161 246 2921, e-mail:[email protected]