Community owned renewable energy has received remarkable levels of vocal support from ministers and shadow ministers alike as the Energy Bill has progressed through parliament. However, it currently contains no supportive policy measures and, as it stands, represents a huge threat to this vibrant and rapidly growing sector.
Currently, the Energy Bill threatens to prevent larger community schemes over 5MW, such as the Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative in Oxfordshire and the Lochcarnan Community Wind Farm in Scotland, from ever happening again. The problem is that the Bill has been developed with large commercial generators in mind. Participating in the proposed “contracts for difference” system would require a high degree of technical knowledge, creating an excessive administrative burden for community projects largely dependent on passionate and dedicated volunteers. Also, with the end of the Renewables Obligation, electricity suppliers will have little incentive to purchase renewable energy from community generators, who have limited bargaining power.
To overcome these problems the Energy Bill urgently requires amendment. Together with 16 other co-operatives and civil society organisations, including the National Trust, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Transition Network, we are calling for community schemes to be exempted from the new “contracts for difference” regime by allowing projects up to 20MW in size to access the fixed Feed-in Tariff scheme instead. We also want a duty to be placed on the secretary of state to promote new community energy generation and for a Green Power Auction Market to be introduced, where communities would receive a fair rate for their electricity.
Energy Bill 'should be amended to protect community energy schemes'