The Coalition government has backed an amendment proposed by Labour/Co-op MPs that will support the growth of community energy projects.
In the Energy Bill, the government originally said community schemes generating renewable energy over 5 megawatts would not be eligible to receive funds through feed-in tariffs. The tarriff, which is set to be increased to 10MW, allows renewable energy projects to receive money for generated electricity from energy suppliers.
Support for community renewable projects over 5MW is currently available under the Renewables Obligation (RO). In response to feedback from community groups on the type of financial incentive that works best for them, the Department of Energy & Climate Change said it is planning to increase the threshold for community projects under feed-in tarriffs to enable larger projects to benefit.
Tom Greatrex, Labour/Co-op MP and Shadow Minister for Energy, said: “I am pleased the amendments pushed by Labour and Co-op are now going to be accepted.” He argued that without the increase in the threshold, the role of community energy schemes within the sector would have been undermined.
“We want to see community energy as a significant part of future not minor one,” commented Mr Greatrex. He said Labour/Co-op MPs had proposed for the threshold to be at least 10mw. He added: “Even with these amendments, at some point in the future, another government would have to change it."
Mr Greatrex, who has been championing community energy throughout parliamentary debates, said he hoped the concession would be the beginning of a set of changes aimed at placing a stronger emphasis on community energy.
Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: “The Coalition is determined to drive a step change in the deployment of community energy. We want to help consumers, businesses and communities generate more of their own clean, green electricity locally, becoming less reliant on centralised power generation."
The Community Energy Coalition, which represents the Co-operative Group, Co-operatives UK, the National Trust, Church of England, Energy4All, and over 20 other organisations, also welcomed the amendment.
Referring to the amendment, Ed Mayo, General Secretary of Co-operatives UK, said: “This is great news for community energy. With this support, we are optimistic that there will be more community-owned schemes of scale in future. We are working closely with government to develop its first Community Energy Strategy, to make sure that communities can invest in renewables, making a significant contribution to the UK’s energy needs and reducing carbon emissions.”
In light of the government’s concession, Annette Heslop, Director at the community energy organisation Energy4All, said: "This is very welcome news and will provide communities with some of the certainty they require to embark on new renewable energy schemes.”
• The Energy Bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords, where peers will have the opportunity to raise other issues and vote on the amendments.