Co-op sector welcomes Labour’s investment plan for local clean energy

Community Energy England says the plan is an ‘unprecedented pledge of support for the community and co-operative sector’

The Labour Party has announced a Local Power Plan where it pledges to work with local government, communities and the private sector to make clean energy by 2030 while creating jobs and cutting energy bills.

Announced at the weekend by leader Keir Starmer and and shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband, it includes plans to invest £400m a year in community energy and give £600m a year to local authorities “to build clean power in cities, towns and villages across Britain to boost national energy security and cut energy bills, as we turbocharge our mission for clean power by 2030”. 

Labour says it will create a National Wealth Fund to invest in green technologies and upgrade poorly insulated homes, and over overturn the ban on new onshore wind farms. And, as previously announced, it plans to set up GB Energy, a nationally owned energy company which aims to develop up to 8GW of renewable energy projects within five years.

GB Energy will partner with councils and communities to put solar panels on public land or the roofs of housing estates and empower local communities to come forward with projects directly owned by local people, and will partner with devolved and regional governments to build local energy plans.

Much of the money pledged will be in the form of revolving loans to kickstart projects and get them to ‘investment readiness’, when they will mobilise more private and community investment. That money will then recycle to kickstart more projects.

Mr Miliband said: “The crucial condition will be that wherever clean power infrastructure is being built, local communities must see a benefit – for example, through reduced energy bills. We will ensure that British people have real control over and benefit from the energy system.

“As a proud Co-operative Party member myself, I know this is a policy that was campaigned for and backed by thousands of our members. It is fantastic that it will now sit at the heart of a future Labour government’s mission to deliver a fairer, greener Britain.”

Joe Fortune, general secretary of the Co-op Party, said: “The announcement marks the biggest expansion of community energy that this country has ever seen, and will empower millions of people to have a real say and stake in the clean, green energy supply of the future.

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“This was a policy campaigned for and backed by thousands of Co-operative Party members, and it is fantastic that it will now sit at the heart of a future Labour government’s mission to deliver a fairer, greener Britain.”

Community Energy England (CEE), which represents community-owned renewable projects, welcomed the “unprecedented pledge of support for the community and co-operative sector”, adding: “Community energy will now have the potential to be a powerhouse for energy transformation in every community.”

Emma Bridge of Community Energy England

The apex body highlighted the announcement’s “emphasis on local initiatives, planning and ownership, rather than centralised, big business-focused investment (eg Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage) that we have seen from government in recent years.”

CEE has long been calling for more engagement with people and communities in the carbon transition, citing a report by MPs on the Climate Change Committee which says this is necessary to reach net zero.

It says the announcement also recognises that local and community energy can reduce the pressure on the grid, adding: “By localising energy we can also reduce the potentially huge costs of reinforcing the national grid,”

Another advantage, says CEE, will be to increase profit for the community energy sector, which is returned to local communities to support local projects.

CEE chief executive, Emma Bridge, said: “We warmly welcome Labour’s emphasis on bringing together communities with the public and private sectors as a key part of their clean power plan. Community energy groups are already working with schools, businesses and community buildings to install renewable energy, helping fuel poor homes to reduce their energy bills, supporting unemployed people to build skills and gain new employment, and much more. But there are many parts of the country that don’t yet have community energy.

“Building a zero-carbon energy system is a social issue that requires a just transition. Community energy builds the consent, trust and active participation to make this happen. Labour’s announcement today is a strong step towards enabling all communities to have access to their own energy projects and creating a fair, zero carbon energy system. We look forward to working with them to realise that vision.”