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Britain, along with much of the rest of the world, is facing the infamous energy “trilemma” of rising energy costs, climate change and strains on security of supply. With about 20% of our population living in rural areas, it’s vital that we find clean, sustainable ways to address this trilemma within the rural economy.
The UK’s housing stock is some of the least energy efficient in Europe, with energy waste accounting for 15% of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions in September 2014. While energy inefficiency has clear environmental implications, it is also hurting UK consumers with the current average dual-fuel bill set to rise above £1,264 per year.
Publication of the first Community Energy Strategy is a welcome recognition that the UK’s energy consumers don’t have to be abandoned to the mercy of faceless multi-national conglomerates. The community energy model is well proven in many parts of Europe – and the USA come to that – but hitherto hopelessly under-exploited in the UK.
It’s been a truism of community energy activism for many years that what communities have managed to achieve across the UK has been ‘in spite of’ the policies and regulations which shape our energy system rather than ‘because of’.
This strategy could not come soon enough. At a time of rapidly rising energy bills and growing concerns over the impact of energy infrastructure on our precious landscapes, community energy offers people a chance not only to take more control of their energy – where it comes from and what it costs – but also feel confident that the places they love have not been sacrificed to generate it.
Community Energy will remain the domain of wealthy areas where volunteers (often professionals and retired) muster up the enthusiasm, knowledge and community spirit to deploy and finance a low carbon technology, for the benefit of the community.
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