Community Energy: a point of agreement across the political spectrum

Hope for the Future recently met with Julia Carrell, a representative from a local Community Energy Project, Sheffield Renewables. Their aim is to develop and support renewable energy schemes in Sheffield in order to improve the City’s environmental sustainability. Julia told us about the benefits of Community Energy, including how it fits well with values across the political spectrum.

The benefits of Community Energy

A positive attribute of Community Energy is that the projects are so visible; allowing people to see where their money is going and how they will benefit from the reduced energy prices and further investment into the local community. Likewise, MPs like to see visible projects. If they support something where the rewards are clear, it will improve their credibility and provide a local success story for future elections.

Cooperative Energy has found these benefits to be having an impact. They report results from a survey which shows that Community Energy receives overwhelming support from people across the political spectrum. Furthermore, this support is increasing; 65% of Conservative voters currently show support compared to 62% in 2015. Two-thirds of the public would even be prepared to pay a small surcharge on their energy bills in order to help fund a local project. Cooperative Energy had previously calculated that 25p per person a year would allow the capacity of the UK’s community energy to grow from 200MW to 3,000MW in a few years.

Policy

Some recent policy changes have been felt by the Community Energy world. Projects are no longer eligible for tax relief and the Feed in Tariffs were reduced. As a result, only 10 new Community Energy Projects have been registered in 2016. Funding is a key issue at the moment as projects are not receiving support from the Government.  Ramsey Dunning, Managing Director for Cooperative Energy quoted that “The newly formed Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and its welcomingly engaged ministers have a fantastic opportunity to tap the public’s goodwill and provide a significant boost to the UK’s social enterprise economy.”

At Sheffield Renewables, they find that public support from local MPs can help to increase the project’s credibility. They have to work closely with the local Councillors, and whilst they are supportive, it can sometimes be difficult to get them to take the projects seriously. With the backing of an MP, councillors are more likely to acknowledge Community Energy Projects as respected enterprises to be working alongside.

What can we do?

We can write to our local MP, or bring up Community Energy in a meeting with them. Why not ask your MP to…

  • Visit a Community Energy site with you (e.g. wind or solar farm)
  • Show support for a local project – why not tell them the statistics on public support for Community Energy?
  • Write to BEIS, asking them to exempt Community Energy Projects from business tax rates.

Visit our Community Energy page for more information.