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Monday 23 October 2017
23 October 2017 - NEWS UPDATE
Community Energy

Third Sector coalition of co-operatives, charities and church launches new Community Energy Manifesto

A coalition of Third Sector groups including the Women's Institute, The Co-operative, the National Trust and the Church of England will today present a clean energy manifesto the Government. The Community Energy Coalition (CEC) is calling for an energy 'revolution' with the introduction of national targets for community energy generation, the promotion of community ownership of power generation and higher community feed-in-tariffs and investment schemes.

The leaders of the CEC, which has an estimated 12 million members, will meet the Energy Secretary Ed Davey today to present what they describe as a series of policy measures to increase community-owned renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

They want to see a dramatic increase in communities controlling, generating, saving and benefiting from their own clean energy. The Co-operative estimates the UK potential for community owned renewable energy installed by 2020 to be a significant 3.5 GW, the equivalent of four conventional power stations.

The CEC vision was launched in February 2012 at a roundtable meeting on delivering community energy with the signatories and the then UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne MP, at Church House in London.

Their concern is that currently 99 per cent of the UK's electricity is generated by just six companies. In comparison, Germany produces more than 20 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, with communities generating about a quarter of this. In the UK, less than one per cent of renewable electricity is generated by communities

CEC leaders visited Germany to see examples of community power generation, including Badenova - a large utility - to the pioneering villages of Feldheim and Freiamt.

Badenova is run jointly by the city-region of Freiburg, and embraces renewables including turning food waste into heat and power for thousands of local homes.

Feldheim is a rural village near Berlin of just 140 inhabitants that has worked with a local commercial renewable energy developer to become completely off-grid and reduce its energy bills by a third, employing around 30 people from the village.

Freimt is a rural upland district near Freiburg that generates 40% more energy from renewable energy than it needs. The wind farms and anaerobic digesters are owned and financed by thousands of local members of the cooperative that runs them.

Paul Monaghan. Head of Socials at The Co-operative said: "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. Our towns, villages and districts are full of hundreds of groups all chomping at the bit to do their bit to generate and save energy locally and fight climate change."

The manifesto calls on the Government to introduce a comprehensive and integrated framework of support to help achieve this potential.

It includes: national targets for community energy; promotion of community ownership as the route to increased public acceptance; the introduction of Government-backed advice and support services and; a financial framework including a higher community feed-in tariff and access to finance through the Green Investment Bank.

Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprise Director at the National Trust, added: "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, like the rest of the Community Energy Coalition, 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."

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, said: "There is huge enthusiasm for co-operatively owned energy. But it is very difficult for co-operatives to compete in the energy market, as regulations and incentives are designed for the bigger players.

"With the forthcoming Energy Bill, and the Community Energy Strategy, government has a chance to put this right, and make sure that co-operative and community schemes can contribute to a diverse low-carbon energy economy."

A recent ICM opinion poll, commissioned by The Co-operative, found an overwhelming 68 per cent of the public would support local renewable energy projects, including wind, which were owned by and benefited the community. Compared to just 7 per cent that would not. 77 percent of respondents agreed that communities should benefit from local renewable energy projects.

The Southwest has a number of leading community energy schemes. The energyshare community was launched under Cornwall Together earlier this year by Energy Secretary Ed Davey and operates as a single unit to negotiate cheaper energy bills and has the potential to save county households and businesses up to an estimated £3.7million each year. And the award-winning Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network was awarded the Best Third Sector organisation in this year’s Cornwall Business Awards.

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