Green Coffee Coordinator Joyce joined a packed conference room of like-minded representatives for a panel discussion on the vision and future opportunities for community energy in the UK, hosted by Green Alliance. Here, Joyce shares her takeaway points...
Is community energy on the edge of a new era? The short answer is no, but a manifesto has been drawn up of what politicians need to do - and this is backed by 20 significant groups.
The reduction in feed-in tariffs has undermined the business case, with the number of community energy projects in England falling from 33 in 2015, to just one in 2017. The removal of feed-in tariffs this spring could abolish the community energy sector all together.
In 2017, community energy groups in England raised a total of £1.1m in community benefit funding. Over the last 10 years in Scotland, £50m has been raised, showing the impact of a benevolent government.
The technology and funding are there to support community projects, but there are too many barriers. These can only be addressed by the politicians.
Bath & North East Somerset have managed to work with the current system and are even planning to erect on-shore wind! It is a Conservative council.
Although lots of financial institutions are willing to invest in community energy (through their corporate and social responsibility funds), they say that community projects are not forthcoming.
Financial institutions will do due diligence which could cost £100,000, so they will not consider projects under £10 million. So community projects would need to aggregate to get to that scale. Also, lending is done against assets and community groups have no assets. A standardised format for applying to financial companies would also be helpful.
The politicians make lots of warm statements, but this is not translated into action. Clare Perry has said that community energy is a key cornerstone of government ambition for transition to a low-carbon, smart energy system.
It is now generally accepted that a decentralised energy system is the future - a big change from 10 years ago.
Labour’s Clive Lewis is doing some really interesting work on the new Green Deal, bringing climate issues into the Treasury.
There has only been 1 successful community heat project in the country.
Green Coffee Coordinator
Read Green Alliance's Community Energy 2.0 Report on the value of the Community Energy sector
Read the government consultation on 'The future of small-scale low carbon generation: a consultation on a Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)'