Call to protect community schemes: amendments to the Energy Bill

The development of a clean energy future will avoid the use of increasingly expensive and environmentally damaging fossil fuels.

colin baines co-op energyIn an article, Colin Baines, Campaigns Manager at the Co-operative Group, said “The problem is that the Bill has been developed with large commercial generators in mind,” adding that the proposed ‘contracts for difference’ system would create an excessive administrative burden for projects dependent on volunteers.

He believes that, in its current form, the Energy Bill could prevent the future development of larger community schemes over 5MW, such as the Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative in Oxfordshire and the Lochcarnan Community Wind Farm in Scotland.

Current EDM 684 signed by MPs from nine political parties: “That this House

  • recognises the significant contribution that co-operatives and community projects can make to the Government’s stated energy goals of reducing carbon emissions and increasing energy security;
  • notes that co-operative and community-owned renewable energy projects tend to enjoy greater levels of public support and attract fewer planning objections, recycle revenue arising within the locality and contribute to community renewal;
  • and urges the Government to instigate a more comprehensive framework of support for community ownership, including fair treatment in electricity market reform.”

For several months a campaign to increase the number of communities democratically owning, controlling and benefiting from their own renewable energy projects has been under way. Marie Claire Kidd in the Co-op News writes that group of 17 co-operatives and civil society organisations, including the Co-operative Group, Co-operatives UK, National Trust, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Transition Network, want community schemes to be exempted from the proposed regime by allowing projects up to 20MW in size to access the fixed Feed-in Tariff scheme instead.

Proposed amendments put forward by WWF are:

1) The Bill should place a duty on the Secretary of State to promote new generation capacity from community energy schemes.

2) The fixed Feed-in Tariff scheme should be extended. The current cap of 5MW should be increased to 20MW. This will provide a guaranteed income for smaller renewables developers, including community-owned schemes, to enable them to participate effectively in the energy market.

3) The Bill should establish a market for community energy schemes and independent renewables generators, through the creation of a ‘green power auction market’ or similar mechanism.

Concerned readers could contact their MP to ask them to support amendments to the Energy Bill and raise the issue with Ministers and take action via: www.co-operative.coop/energyaction

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