Community Energy All Party Parliamentary Group event full to overflowing


The All Party Parliamentary Group for Community Energy held an event entitiled Empowering Community Energy, in the largest meeting room in parliament which was packed with 150 people. At least as many people failed to gain entry. The extraordinary enthusiasm for this event was noted and will be fed up to the top of government by the MP champions in the room. (We are very concerned that many CEE members were unable to enter having spent time and money to travel to London and after CEE were asked to promote the event.  We discussed this with the organisers, Power for People - the APPG secretariat, to ensure this doesn't happen again. They have contacted all attenders to offer compensation where appropriate.)

Selaine Saxby MP, (Con) chair of the APPG, spoke about the huge potential of community energy and had been lobbying the minister to expedite the consultation on barriers to community energy and local supply immediately before the event. She thanked the previous chair, David Johnston MP who had lobbied hard for the Community Energy Fund.

Wera Hobhouse MP (Lib Dem) said, "The potential of local community energy is boundless" and the power of a model where "every pound of profit is recycled back to the community". She mentioned the need for increased rewards for doing the right thing citing the galvanising effect of the Feed-in Tariff and suggesting a redesign of the Smart Export Guarantee. She mentioned a 'Community Right to Connect' to the grid, for projects deliverying social and community benefit, ahead of purely commercial projects. We hope to see both in Lib Dem manifesto pledges.

Dr Alan Whitehead MP (Labour) spoke of how community energy is a quintessential example of how energy can be owned and supplied in a way that is relevant to people's lives, anchoring energy activity in the places we live and work. He also spoke of "unlimited" potential and said Labour estimate that 8GW of it can be realised in the next parliament - the equivalent of more than 2 new nuclear power stations but much better, cheaper and more efficient. "Local community energy is an extraordinarily good bargain". He acknowledged the £10m Community Energy Fund but said a "different dimension of support is needed". Labour is pledging £3.5 billion to 2030 to support and develop local energy projects, through the national Great British Energy company.

Dr Afsheen Rashid, CEO of Repowering London, said the energy system doesn't work for many people, inducing fear, stress and a sense of crisis - 7+million people are in fuel poverty. Nor is it delivering the pace of change needed. Community energy is changing this dynamic by putting people and communities at the heart of the energy transformation. Global issues are linked to local action, connecting people with each other, their place and power and generating wealth in the community. In the face of policy uncertainty and cuts the sector has shown resilience, agility and determination but many great opportunities could not be realised. This is not the way to scale up the transition. There is no policy support for fuel poverty work, energy efficiency, retrofit - but community energy is doing it anyway.

She gave examples of how Repowering has worked in diverse, deprived urban communities including creating 10 energy coops, local jobs, 150 paid traineeships and local supply trials saving residents 30% on energy bills and engaging them in using energy differently. "This is what power to the people looks like".

She urged the government not to underestimate the power of people, to provide a fair playing field for investment in community energy, give community energy a significant role in Great British Energy, encourage collaborations with local authorities, regulate to enable local supply and reinstate tax relief to help us crowd in community investment to make projects happen. And finally to ensure the energy transition is just and leaves no-one behind.

Steve Shaw, director of Power for People, who campaign for the Local Electricity Bill and are also the APPG secretariat, recognised that huge progress had been made over recent years but that local supply was still not in place. They continue their great campaigning in parliament and asked everyone to write to their MPs to urge the government urgently to bring forward the consultation on barriers to community energy and local supply.

In questions the huge problem of grid connections was discussed, the power of localisation and demand reduction and retrofit (which community energy is passionate about and uniquely well placed to deliver) to reduce pressure on the grid. Leanne Wood of Community Energy Wales mentioned the establishment of the Welsh Energy Company, Ynni Cymru and offered it as a trial of how to do energy differently.