COMMUNITY ENERGY REVOLUTION BRIEFING:
Whenever Liberal Democrats are discussing energy and climate change policy it doesn’t take long for someone to say that we should be doing far more to encourage community energy. This is no surprise. Community energy involves encouraging local community action to save energy as well as promoting renewable energy and so help tackle climate change.
So taking this forward has been a top priority for Ed Davey since he became Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. Community energy is already growing rapidly – from insulating homes, reducing bills through energy saving ‘drop-ins’ and collective switching schemes, to generating sustainable electricity and heat through community co-operatives and social enterprises – and local authorities have a huge stake in its continued success. But we need to do much more to realise the potential of community energy.
Today Ed has launched the UK’s first ever Community Energy Strategy https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/community-energy-strategy. The Strategy sets out a bold vision for community energy – one where community projects could supply enough electricity for 1 million homes by 2020 and make significant contributions to reducing energy bills and fuel poverty – and includes measures to help communities and local authorities to scale up activity. There is no doubt that without Lib Dems in government this would not have happened. The immediate measures are:
- A new £10 million Urban Community Energy Fund (complementing the £15 million Rural Community Energy Fund launched in July) to provide ‘at risk’ finance for community energy projects
- A ‘One Stop Shop’ information resource for community energy and partners, to be developed with community energy groups using seed funding from DECC
- A new Community Energy Unit in the Department to ensure that the potential of Community energy is reflected in everything the Department does
- A taskforce to work with community energy groups and renewable energy developers so that part community ownership becomes the norm for renewable energy projects especially onshore wind and solar PV farms
- A commitment to work with OFGEM and community energy groups to seek to enable community energy groups to become direct energy suppliers
- Additional funding of £1m for the Big Energy Saving Network to allow it to continue to support eligible third sector organisations and community groups to deliver outreach to vulnerable consumers, helping them to reduce energy costs
- A new £100,000 community energy saving competition will incentivise communities to develop innovative approaches to saving energy and money
- Working groups to identify unnecessary bureaucratic barriers to community energy, and recommend how they can be tackled
- A national Communities and Local Government Conference in June 2014, delivered in partnership by DECC, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council and the Low Carbon Hub
In addition, in recent months Ed has also announced:
- The £80m Green Deal Communities scheme, which provides a new opportunity for community groups to partner with their local authorities to get involved in improving energy efficiency in their local area
- Powers in the Energy Bill to enable us to increase the maximum FITs threshold from 5MW to 10MW for community renewable projects. We intend to consult on the use of this power in spring 2014
The Strategy encourages local authorities and communities to be bolder. Where community, business and the public sector pull together to tackle local energy issues, more can be done for less.