Let’s face it, in the UK we are largely passive consumers when it comes to our energy, subject to the vagaries of the market, ever increasing wholesale gas prices and large profit making providers. But this state of affairs doesn’t have to endure or be endured.
We at The Co-operative think a clean energy revolution with communities at its heart is possible. That is why we are campaigning for a dramatic increase in the number of communities democratically controlling and benefiting from their own renewable energy and energy-saving projects. It is common elsewhere in Europe and should be common here too.
Community energy has a great deal to offer. It helps the UK to meet its energy and climate change goals, namely reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy security and competitiveness, but the benefits extend far beyond this. It supports the local economy and helps to rejuvenate communities by redistributing and reinvesting the profits for its own benefit. It influences personal behaviour and raises awareness of energy and environmental issues. Significantly, it also increases local support for vital clean energy projects.
A recent opinion poll commissioned by The Co-operative found that 68 per cent of locals would support a community-owned clean-energy project near their homes compared to just seven per cent that would not. The poll also found that of the 22 per cent who would oppose wind projects in their area, two out of three of them would change their minds if they belonged to and benefited the community; a powerful statistic that demands attention.
The Co-operative is providing direct support to communities to set up and run their own projects via the Co-operative Enterprise Hub, from free expert advice to the underwriting of community share offers. Many of the schemes participating in Community Energy Fortnight have benefited in recent years. We are also supporting several exciting community projects via our Community Energy Challenge, including the National Trust’s innovative community hydro partnership with Abergwyngregyn in North Wales and a groundbreaking scheme in Buckinghamshire to site combined PV solar panels and noise-reduction barriers along the M40.
Our members and customers have enthusiastically gotten involved with the campaign too, with thousands contacting their MP in support of the campaign to date, and to good effect. Just last month, the Energy Bill was amended to protect community energy projects. Something we applaud the Government for.
However, there is still a great deal to do. We are now asking the public to contact their MP in support of a robust Community Energy Strategy that would introduce a comprehensive framework of support. This would help achieve the revolution in energy ownership that The Co-operative, the Community Energy Coalition, ministers and shadow ministers alike have all called for.
Working together with our partners in the Community Energy Coalition we are proud to support the first Community Energy Fortnight and hope many new groups will form as result. Come join the revolution.