Community energy strategy includes support for projects such as solar Photo-Voltaic Panels for social housing. Panels like these, being installed by Logic Renewables, generate electricity and revenue from sunlight

Community energy strategy includes support for projects such as solar Photo-Voltaic Panels for social housing. Panels like these, being installed by Logic Renewables, generate electricity and revenue from sunlight

Would you like to take control of your energy bills and help transform Britain’s energy system? That may now be possible through community action thanks to proposals unveiled today in Britain’s first Community Energy Strategy according to a Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) press release.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey announced

“We’re at the turning point in developing true community energy. The cost of energy is now a major consideration for household budgets, and I want to encourage groups of people across the country to participate in a community energy movement and take real control of their energy bills.

“Community led action, such as collective switching, gives people the power to bring down bills and encourage competition within the energy market.”

SURVEY UNDERPINS COMMUNITY ENERGY STRATEGY

Over 50 per cent of people surveyed by DECC said that saving money on bills would be their major motivation for getting involved with community energy schemes.

About 3.5 million bill payers say they are ready to get together with other people in their local community to take more control of their energy.

 40% of respondents said they were already interested in joining a community energy group, and taking part in collective switching or collective energy purchasing schemes.

Under the Community Energy Strategy plans the Government will broaden the support available for community energy projects, whereby people come together to reduce their energy use or purchase and generate their own energy.

Plans include:

  • A £10m Urban Community Energy Fund (UCEF) to kick-start community energy generation projects in England which provide economic and social benefits to the community this is in addition to the existing Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF), and shall have the same method of application. Details of RCEF can be found on the WRAP website. The UCEF will be open to all communities in England that are not eligible to access RCEF.

As with RCEF, there will be two stages of funding for the UCEF:

    1. Stage one allows applications for grants of up to approximately £20,000 for feasibility work.
    2. Stage two allows applications for loans up to approximately £130,000 to support planning applications and develop robust business cases which will attract further investment.
  • £1m Big Energy Saving Network funding to support the work of volunteers helping vulnerable consumers to reduce their energy;
  • a community energy saving competition, offering £100,000 to communities to develop innovative approaches to saving energy and money. To register interest in the competition email communityenergystrategy@decc.gsi.gov.uk
  • a “one-stop shop” information resource for people interested in developing community energy projects.

Energy and Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker said “The Community Energy Strategy marks a change in the way we approach powering our homes and businesses – bringing communities together and helping them save money – and make money too.

“The Coalition is determined to unleash this potential, assist communities to achieve their ambitions and drive forward the decentralised energy revolution. We want to help more consumers of energy to become producers of energy and in doing so help to break the grip of the dominant big energy companies.”

Since 2008, at least 5000 community groups have participated in energy projects in the UK. The Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral project in Cheshire, for example, saved local households an average of £300 a year through encouraging behaviour change and installing simple energy efficiency measures.  Find out more on the Carbon Neutral Project website

In the future, the generation of electricity by communities themselves could put pressure on energy suppliers to drive down prices, creating warmer homes, cutting carbon emissions and diversifying the UK’s energy mix. Estimates suggest that energy generation schemes involving local communities, such as installing solar panels on social housing buildings, could supply enough electricity for 1 million homes by 2020.

The potential of community energy beyond this is even greater says DECC. Community shared ownership schemes with renewables developers will be an important future part of ensuring that local people reap the financial and social benefits of energy developments built in their area.

The Government’s vision is that every community that wants to take forward an energy project should be able to do so. The Community Energy Strategy sets out how communities that want to take action on energy can create opportunities for more people to get involved. According to DECC the renewables industry has committed to facilitate a substantial increase in the shared ownership of new, onshore renewables developments and is developing new approaches to community engagement and benefits.

The Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change has asked an industry taskforce to work with the community sector and report back to him by spring 2014. This report will include a framework and timetable for implementation, and a level of ambition for community ownership of new renewables developments. DECC says it expects that it will be the norm for interested communities to be offered some level of ownership of new, commercially developed onshore renewables projects by 2015.