Councils could help usher in a revolution in the country’s renewable energy supply if they showed leadership and gave financial backing to community-led schemes, a think tank has argued.
A ResPublica study launched by energy minister Greg Barker yesterday suggests the country is lagging behind continental peers such as Germany, where nearly half (46%) of all renewables’ generated energy comes from community schemes.
In contrast, energy from this source is a paltry 0.3% in the UK, but is forecast to increase nine-fold by 2020 based on current trends
But with local authority funding and leadership, underpinned by a robust national framework, councils could help oversee massive growth in the sector, sufficient to deliver one fifth of total renewable energy capacity by 2020, the authors claim.
However, the successful growth of community energy would depend on a greater spirit of flexibility and a more positive approach from councils, the paper argues.
It recommends local government should be encouraged to act as intermediaries and make use of the Localism Act to both invest and get a financial return from community schemes. It urges councils to broker community energy deals with housing associations, businesses and voluntary organisations such as churches.
Greg Barker minister for energy and climate change, said: ‘The Coalition is committed to helping hard pressed consumers with the rising cost of living.
‘When it comes to energy bills, this includes supporting communities to take more control over local generation projects, while also empowering them to reduce their energy demand, tackle local fuel poverty, and get the best deal on their energy supply,’ Mr Barked said.
Maria McCaffery, chief executive of RenewableUK said the report highlights the exciting prospect of communities working more closely with local wind farm developers, local businesses and local authorities on jointly-owned projects.
‘Using this socially and economically-inclusive model, we have an opportunity to redefine the relationship between communities and developers to unlock a significant growth in community energy, particularly in onshore wind.’