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- Meet your MP about community energy this Community Energy Fortnight
- We can do more to foster community energy in low-income communities.
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- Community energy is not just what we do, but how we do it - By Ed Mayo, Co-operatives UK
- “It's all still to play for" says Co-op Energy's Head of Renewables
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- The community energy revolution pushes on in face of storm clouds
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The community energy revolution pushes on in face of storm clouds
The 2015 Community Energy Fortnight was our biggest and best yet, inspiring more people to get involved in community energy through supporting or initiating local projects. A big thank you to all the individuals and organisations who were involved in supporting the Fortnight, from promotion to running events.
The Fortnight featured 86 events across the UK attended by thousands of people, reaching an even larger audience through social media, via the ukcec blog and #CEF15 on twitter. The Fortnight saw a fantastic variety of events, including workshops, festivals, training for increasing energy efficiency, launches of new share offers, and discussions. There were also lots of open days, ranging from homes, to hydro-schemes, and a mosque with solar panels. We also saw the launch of the Community Energy Hub, a single point of access for information on community energy in the UK.
Ramsay Dunning, Managing Director of Co-operative Energy, shares his reflections on the Fortnight below and looks ahead to the new challenges facing the sector (and the Fortnight) in 2016.
The community energy revolution pushes on in face of storm clouds
The UK’s third Community Energy Fortnight proved to be something of an emotional roller-coaster.
On the one hand, the sector was enthused by the knowledge that 2015 will be the best year ever (by some way) when it comes to the deployment of citizen-owned renewable energy projects. Conversely, a raft of public policy announcements from the UK’s newly-elected Government could put the brakes on further growth in future years.
The Fortnight was once again launched with a marquee conference, organised by Co-operative Energy and Community Energy England. Hundreds of activists attended, buoyed by excellent national press coverage on the morning of the event and over the preceding days (not least the evidence that Conservative voters were overwhelmingly supporters of community energy). Speaker after speaker noted that the sector looked to be reaching critical mass, but that all this great progress could be derailed by changes in Government policy. However, glimmers of hope persisted that the Government would maintain support for community energy in some shape or form – not least as modelling from Co-operative Energy and the Energy Savings Trust indicates that 3GW of community energy could be delivered for as little as 25p per UK retail customer per annum.
There was a pervading sense that the sector would move forward regardless and make a fist of things – although this was before the Government’s announcement that community energy investors would (contrary to recent assurances) soon be denied access to enterprise tax reliefs, and renewables of all shapes and sizes would be subject to drastic reductions in support rates. The sector has rallied incredibly well in the short-term, with 24 projects hastily completing share offers before the November 30th deadline - enabled in part by 1010’s wonderful ‘energy dash’ initiative. But, henceforth, the business case for projects will be much more marginal, as demonstrated by the cancellation of schemes in places such as Abingdon and Balcombe.
Community Energy projects have a unique ability to drive change and empower citizens but may face greater barriers than their commercial counterparts which intelligently designed policy can help to overcome. As outlined in Community Energy England’s timely recent analysis: £7.4m of FITs support saw 38 community energy groups leverage over £50 million of additional private investment and £5 million of in-kind volunteering; with 45% of project spend allocated to local contractors and £23 million of projected donations to community benefit funds. As stated in the analysis: “community energy groups provide value for money. They draw in a wide range of professional expertise, generally on a voluntary basis, and share expertise with other groups and their local community. This community involvement is far more cost-effective than any national campaign to promote sustainable living or carbon reduction, and coming from a trusted and known source it is far more likely to produce results.”
So, where does that leave the sector? Well, we are all still digesting what the impact of the Government’s FITs review will be, and the degree to which it will curtail further growth in community energy. However, it is already clear that, in order to move forward, very different business models will be needed. Co-operative Energy will continue to do what it can to support the sector in this time of transition via power purchase support agreements and initiatives such as our award-winning User Chooser product. I’m also delighted to announce that we’ll also be sponsoring Community Energy Fortnight again in 2016.
This year’s Fortnight may have a different feel and focus, but it will continue to argue the unique and compelling merits of a citizen-owned renewable energy revolution. Please join us and make it the best yet.
Ramsay Dunning, Managing Director, Co-operative Energy