As Bristol Energy Cooperative has commented, we believe the government’s new £10 million community energy fund is nowhere near enough – particularly as it continues to prop up the fossil fuel industry. But there is a positive side to this story. Campaign group Power for People have been working hard to put community energy on the parliamentary agenda through the power of a collective voice – and this energy is paying off. Corinna Miller explains.
Current energy market rules block community-led organisations like Bristol Energy Co-op from selling their clean energy to local households and businesses. This forces them to sell it to national utilities, and UK customers typically pay much more for their energy than local projects are paid for generating it. This has significantly hampered their growth, despite the ever-rising need nationwide for more homegrown, renewable energy.
For the last few years, we at ‘Power for People’ have been rallying grassroots support for a new law, called the Local Electricity Bill, that would allow these community-led projects to sell their clean energy to local customers. This would make many new schemes financially viable while empowering existing ones to expand.
We have been asking people, organisations and councils to write to their local MPs, asking that they support the Local Electricity Bill. This has led to over half of all the UK’s MPs adding their names to public support. And, when the Government announced last year that they would be bringing forward a major new piece of energy legislation, the Energy Bill, we had the perfect opportunity to drive forward our proposals.
Since last year we have been working with cross-party groups of MPs and Members of the House of Lords, while mobilising our broad public support at key moments in the Energy Bill’s journey through Parliament to becoming law.
The Government agreed over the summer to introduce several new measures to enable community energy to grow. These are:
- A new £10 million fund for community energy projects across England,
- A consultation on removing the UK-wide barriers that community energy projects face when trying to sell their power locally, and
- A commitment to report annually to Parliament on progress towards removing those barriers.
This is a dramatic turnaround in government policy. The fund is the first of its kind for many years and the consultation opens the door for future, more transformational change. Before our campaigning started a few years ago, community energy was not a topic that MPs, Lords or Baronesses repeatedly pushed at Parliamentary debates. Now they do – and Ministers are responding ever more positively. These measures are a testament to the fact that mass public advocacy campaigns continue to have remarkable effectiveness in creating desired change.
We will continue to campaign to see more local projects spring up all over the UK. We will work to ensure that the consultation is well-responded to and that the new fund helps kickstart many new projects, all while keeping up the high levels of advocacy in Parliament for community energy. We will also continue to push for a way to empower community groups to sell their clean energy locally.
Please join us and thousands of others in calling for a community energy revolution.
Sign up to support our Community Energy Revolution Campaign and get our newsletter here: https://powerforpeople.org.uk/sign-up
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For One Earth Week, starting 20th November, Power for People have created short segments celebrating their work and showcasing the power of community action to be broadcast on local radio across the country. If you’re in Bristol, look out for mention of BEC!