Political parties back a community energy future

Most political parties contesting the general election have backed some form of community energy in their manifestos. Recently the Labour Party launched its Green Manifesto, with shadow chancellor...

Most political parties contesting the general election have backed some form of community energy in their manifestos.

Recently the Labour Party launched its Green Manifesto, with shadow chancellor Ed Balls backing co-operative and community energy. Writing for Business Green, Ed Balls said that energy co-operatives should have the ability to access existing tax breaks for  renewable energy projects.

He added that he would ensure that communities could continue to invest in and share in the return from new wind farm or solar projects. The FCA would also play a role in ensuring that regulatory burdens do not un-necessarily impede these projects, he said. The Labour Party intends to retrofit five million homes over 10 years and work with industry to strengthen zero carbon homes standards.

Other parties have also mentioned renewable energy co-operatives in their manifestos for the general election. The Co-operative Party, which runs candidates jointly with the Labour Party, wants a dramatic increase in community energy as well as the right for communities to invest in new energy generation projects and take over the ownership of their local electricity grid supply.

The Green Party also places a strong emphasis on energy co-operatives. In its manifesto the party pledges to build a secure and affordable energy system that meets people’s needs while protecting the environment. As part of their energy policy, the Greens aim to support energy supplies from community, co-operative and locally owned renewable energy projects. The party also promises to address the dominance of the Big Six and provide for long-term targets and stable feed-in tariffs.

The SNP said it is looking to increase support for the community ownership of local energy projects through its £20m local energy challenge fund, which will provide support for projects. While Plaid Cymru said it wants to see local people owning its energy and it will increase the advice and support available to communities. The Liberal Democrats said it will help people form energy co-operatives so they can benefit from group discounts and cut their bills.

Co-operatives UK policy officer, James Wright, commented: “We are pleased to see broad support for community energy, with parties picking up on key issues in the sector, like grid access and regulatory challenges. Tantalising hints towards enabling community owned energy co-ops to supply local residents directly are especially welcome, even if these are not as firm as we would like.

“In the context of wider support for community ownership of renewable energy, though, it is disappointing that the Conservatives and UKIP were unable to offer help to communities wanting to develop their own renewable power sources, whatever their thoughts on energy subsidies at large.”

Paul Monaghan, director of Up the Ethics, added: “The manifestos and commitments are now all out there and the scores on the doors read as follows for community energy. The Conservatives secure nil-pwa: not only no mention of community energy, but the proposed restrictions on onshore wind and solar would take us backwards.

“The Liberal Democrats are much, much better: say all the right things and have been very supportive in government, but there is little detail on what they will do going forward.

“However, of the three more established parties, the Labour Party (with some critical input from the Co-operative Party) steal the show: they’ve recognised the sectors calls for a stable tax relief environment for investors and promised to take on the FCA and their wrong-headed treatment of community energy co-operatives.”

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