Co-operatives UK launches far-sighted set of proposals which ‘sets out a series of policy measures to increase community owned renewable energy and energy efficiency projects’
Their Manifesto for a community energy revolution available to download in PDF here sets out three broad areas by which government can promote renewable energy uptake by focusing on community ownership.
The group’s report states that the co-operative model will operate very successfully within the highly significant 50kw-10MW range of electricity generation projects, helping, if given appropriate government support, to meet 2020 renewable energy targets.
They claim that government could provide leadership by committing to an increase in community ownership with defined national targets and recognise community ownership projects’ potential in meeting UK energy goals for both conservation and production.
There is immense potential for community electricity schemes: ‘In Germany, already an estimated 15 percent of all renewable electricity generation capacity is owned by communities, some 5GW of capacity and 600 energy cooperatives’ they write, projecting that in the right regulatory climate the UK could produce 3.4GW of electricity in community owned projects.
The group also argue the role of community ownership in achieving public acceptance for renewable energy projects. Paul Monaghan, Head of Socials at The Co-operative, says: ‘The majority of people in the UK want to see a massive increase in renewable energy, however, there is a powerful minority set against this. Community-owned renewables offer a brilliant way to break this log jam, and this Manifesto sets out what needs to happen in order for this to happen.’
They also propose state aids for community based schemes including: a preferential Feed-in Tariff, investor tax breaks and access to finance for through a Green Investment Bank.
They also believe that it should be possible to develop models of co-operation between local authorities and community energy organisation
Government should also encourage partnership with commercial energy developers, incentivising energy project developers to work with community-owned energy organisations.
Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprise Director at the National Trust, says: “We know that when communities secure a stake in energy projects they are much more reassured that their own beautiful and fragile local landscapes and villages can embrace the proposals. Community energy can help empower local people to take control of their own energy futures and in a style that maintains and even enhances what makes local places special and cherished. We… are ready to work with the Government to support a big increase in community owned renewable energy and in particular create a step change in energy efficiency schemes.”
The Co-operatives UK’s manifesto represents a clear description of the means by which to achieve the Irish government’s stated commitment to: ‘facilitate the development of energy co-operatives to make it easier for small scale renewable energy providers to contribute to our renewables target’.