Call for co-ops to protect community schemes in Energy Bill

Campaigners are calling for an amendment to the Energy Bill and are asking supporters of community energy projects to garner support from their MPs.

Campaigners are calling for an amendment to the Energy Bill and are asking supporters of community energy projects to garner support from their MPs.

A group of 17 co-operatives and civil society organisations, including the Co-operative Group, Co-operatives UK, National Trust, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Transition Network, want community schemes to be exempted from the proposed regime by allowing projects up to 20MW in size to access the fixed Feed-in Tariff scheme instead.

In an article, Colin Baines, Campaigns Manager at the Co-operative Group, said that in its current form the Energy Bill could prevent larger community schemes over 5MW, such as the Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative in Oxfordshire and the Lochcarnan Community Wind Farm in Scotland, from ever happening again.

“The problem is that the Bill has been developed with large commercial generators in mind,” he said, adding that the proposed ‘contracts for difference’ system would create an excessive administrative burden for projects dependent on volunteers.

In addition, the end of the Renewables Obligation would leave electricity suppliers little incentive to purchase renewable energy from community generators, who have limited bargaining power, said Mr Baines.

The 17 organisations want a duty placed on the Secretary of State to promote new community energy generation and for a Green Power Auction Market to be introduced, where communities would receive a fair rate for their electricity.

“When planning opposition is the main barrier to many larger renewable energy projects being realised, this cannot easily be ignored,” Mr Baines said. “We must keep up the pressure to turn vocal government support into solid policy measures.”

Supporters of community energy are being asked to help by contacting their MPs and urging them to support these amendments to the Energy Bill.

Also, an Early Day Motion on community energy has attracted support from across the political spectrum, with MPs from nine political parties having signed, including Lib Dem president Tim Farron, former Conservative energy minister Charles Hendry and chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee Tim Yeo.

Mr Baines said: “With such a broad base of support and such enormous potential, community energy must be given the opportunity to thrive. We hope this opportunity will be taken when the Energy Bill reaches its report stage in the House of Commons in coming weeks.”

• To find out how to take action, click here: www.co-operative.coop/energyaction — and see here to read Colin Baines' article.

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