“Outrage is not enough” said Ed Mayo as he addressed the Community Energy Conference in the wake of a series of government policy changes which experts say will stymie many well-progressed community energy schemes. “The question is how we organise moving forward.”
The secretary general of Co-operatives UK said energy had been a boom area for the co-operative movement, not just in energy generation and retail, but also service companies and reduction of energy demand.
“Energy democracy is absolutely critical,” he said. “Just to hand over our resources to markets and competition is not to deliver what we need.”
He said it was important to recognise that part of the government’s motivation for reducing community energy subsidies was to bring down energy bills. “We’re bonkers if we think that telling our story in our language is going to work in terms of persuading this government to change their minds,” he said.
“We have to tell a story that works for everybody. We have to mobilise, we have to galvanise people from across political parties and none, but we have recognise where the motivation’s come from.
“We have to accept that the energy market has been rigged, not by us, but we haven’t had a democratic mandate for the kinds of subsidies that we’ve had because they’ve been loaded on to consumers through bills rather than been run through the taxpayer and through parliament”
The conference heard about inspirational community energy projects focused on tackling fuel poverty including schemes from the Carbon Co-op and Chase Community Solar, where energy efficiency and renewables are used to reduce bills for those most in need.
In his blog, published on the day of the conference, Mr Mayo said: “We need to restate the basic case for community ownership of our energy system, and for people to be partners in the renewable energy transition. We need shared ownership to work at scale.
“We need to secure from government support that brings in more of the public as partners in renewable energy generation… Community and co-operative ownership at scale we see in Denmark and Germany has to be our inspiration and our focus. The fightback is on.”