Friends of the Earth release 7-point plan to boost community energy

Friends of the Earth (FoE) is calling on the next UK Government to make community energy a priority by removing the current barriers to the sector's development. It has issued a seven point plan for action that would help community energy realise its full potential.

The environmental group says that community energy has the ability to be a driving force in the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy. Currently only half a gigawatt of energy in the UK is produced by community projects, compared to over 25 GW in Germany – almost 30% of its total energy generation mix.

The current Government introduced the UK’s first community energy strategy in January 2014. But the removal of financial incentives by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement is reportedly actively discouraging green energy community projects.

FoE has therefore issued a seven point action plan ahead of this year’s general election to encourage communities and small businesses to invest in clean energy, which it is asking all political parties to support.

FoE’s seven point plan for action on community energy:

· Pledge to have fitted six million domestic solar rooftop systems by 2020;

· Introduce measures to enable every school in the UK to go solar – including allowing schools to borrow money to install panels;

· Allow renewable energy investments to be included in ISAs;

· Make it easier and cheaper for communities to buy and sell electricity generated locally at a fair price;

· Give communities the right to invest in nearby large-scale renewable developments – with a mandatory community share offer of at least 20%;

· Guarantee grid connection for communities at an affordable cost;

· Give local government a duty to reduce carbon emissions; and plan for, and actively support, the development of community-owned renewable energy.

Power to the People

Although the Government supports community energy, it appears to be actively discouraging co-operatives by removing the tax relief scheme applying to them because these sell the energy produced back to the grid rather than to members

“Community energy should be the driving force behind a UK green energy revolution, but not enough is being done to give power to the people.” Friends of the Earth renewable energy campaigner Anna Watson said.

“Despite all the barriers, local organisations and small businesses are doing fabulous work, but if the Government and local authorities really got behind them community-owned renewable energy schemes could really take off.”

Financial Support

The community energy sector has received some financial support over the last few months. In December UK ethical investment platform Abundance launched a new service to encourage communities to invest in local renewable energy projects, while there has been a concerted push by Decc to increase uptake of community-owned renewables.

In November, Ed Davey announced a £10m cash injection for the Urban Community Energy Fund, while the Green Investment Bank also announced a £200m lending programme for community-scale renewable energy projects in the UK.

Lucinda Dann

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