On 27th January, DECC launched the UK’s first ever Community Energy Strategy.
The general response from experts and NGOs is positive and implementation is expected to lead to the growth of thousands of local community energy organisations. The Secretary of State has written to all Local Authorities asking for a step change in their support.
The Strategy identifies four main types of energy activity that communities can get involved in:
- Generating energy (electricity or heat)
- Reducing energy use (saving energy through energy efficiency and behaviour change)
- Managing energy (balancing supply and demand)
- Purchasing energy (collective purchasing or switching to save money on energy)
One pleasing aspect of this strategy is that it promises to go beyond energy security, climate change and energy bills, to promote wider social and economic benefits such as stronger communities; skills, education and work experience; and financial benefits for communities.
Highlights of the strategy include:
- A new Community Energy Unit within DECC to ensure that the potential of Community Energy is reflected in everything the Department does
- The launch this spring of the Renewable Heat Incentive for domestic properties
- Doubling the Feed-in Tariff maximum capacity ceiling from 5MW to 10MW for community projects (subject to consultation in spring 2014)
- A new £10 million Urban Community Energy Fund (complementing the £15 million Rural Community Energy Fund launched in July) to provide ‘at risk’ finance for community energy projects
- Links to the £80m Green Deal Communities scheme, which provides a new opportunity for community groups to partner with their local authorities to get involved in improving energy efficiency in their local area
- A commitment to work with OFGEM and community energy groups to seek to enable community energy groups to become direct energy suppliers
The LGIU has also published a policy briefing, which you can read here.
The April events in the LEEN (Local Energy Efficiency Network) calendar will include guest speakers introducing the new community energy strategy and what it means for local authorities, in particular. Please visit the LEEN page to register for this network.