Almost 3,500 people have signed a petition calling on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to stop blocking registration of renewable energy co-operatives. The campaign on the 38 Degrees website, created by energy co-op federation Energy4All, says the FCA has refused to register a significant number of new societies, previously often known as members co-ops, since spring.
At a meeting this July, representatives from the FCA told co-operators that the co-operative society, the most common model for an energy co-op, was no longer compliant with its rules as it does not directly trade with its members. Community benefit societies are not affected.
Energy4All says the FCA has made this decision unilaterally, but adds that the seven principles of the International Co-operative Alliance do not require co-operatives to trade with their members. It says that in the UK the “very tight and highly complex regulatory requirements of the energy supply industry effectively prevent co-ops selling electricity directly to their members”.
According to Energy4All, renewable energy co-ops fall within the definition of a co-operative. “The FCA should register any co-operative that complies with the international principles of co-operation and not impose additional constraints, such as requiring co-operative societies to trade directly with their members,” the petition says.
An FCA spokesperson said: “Our role is to register a co-operative society where we are satisfied it is a bona fide co-operative. We make no judgement as to the merits, or otherwise, of the nature of an applicant’s business.
“An energy co-operative that satisfies us it is a bona fide co-operative would be registered. But on a number of occasions we have been presented with applications that do not satisfy us that the applicant is a bona fide co-operative. Where a society is looking to benefit the community through renewable energy we have registered, and will continue to register, these societies will be registered as community benefit societies.”