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ResPublica Welcomes Government’s Community Energy Strategy

27th January 2014

  • ResPublica

Emphasis on joint ventures and community ownership is welcome, but much more could be done to facilitate a local energy market

The Government has today published the UK’s first ever Community Energy Strategy. ResPublica welcomes the move, which has the potential to dramatically scale up community energy across the UK.

ResPublica’s report, The Community Renewables Economy, highlighted the importance of ‘joint venture’ models in enabling community energy to start up and scale up. Published in September 2013 with the Minister and Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, the report concluded that with increased government support, the community energy sector could grow 89 times its current size.

The Community Energy Strategy recognises the importance of joint ventures, and has set out a series of action points to further support the potential of this model. Such initiatives include a new industry taskforce to substantially increase community ownership of new commercial developments.

ResPublica also welcomes the move by the Renewable Energy Association to set up a marketplace for public, private and community groups to make business connections with the renewables industry. The Community Renewables Economy recommended that such a portal be established in order to scope out where communities can seek advice and partnership opportunities.

Neighbourhood planning and means to engage the wider community are also recognised by DECC as key facilitators for growth. But ResPublica argues that much more could be done. The Community Renewables Economy recommended that the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Energy and Climate Change pilot local energy development plans and establish a series of ‘Community Commissions’ to encourage wider participation and to ease the planning process.

Community Commissions are independent, randomly-selected representative bodies made up entirely of local residents, which could and should be given a short pathway to planning power, with a delegated authority to approve community energy schemes. Crucially, Community Commissions must engage and work with existing neighbourhood forums.

The potential role of communities doesn’t end there. ResPublica’s Head of Research, Caroline Julian, argues that the next exciting step is in mainstreaming community energy and integrating such projects into local energy markets:

“The Government’s Community Energy Strategy hints at the potential for communities to not only produce, but also supply their own power. Mainstreaming community energy and facilitating greater participation in local energy markets is key to keeping value local and creating an economy that can truly benefit all. Alongside local authorities and businesses, communities could become the new competition to rival the ‘big six’.”

ResPublica is taking forward a series of new projects and policy innovations to enable this vision, and to explore the various barriers to mainstreaming the sector. Please follow this link for more details or contact Caroline Julian at caroline.julian@respublica.org.uk or on 0207 222 6552.


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