There are 267 MPs (excluding Scottish MPs) who represent seats with community energy projects in them. That is a huge potential power-base if all of them can recognise the power and potential of our sector to enable the energy transition and bring benefit to their communities.
The Government's Net Zero Strategy, published on Tuesday 19 October 2020, mentioned community energy but contained no concrete plans or support measures for the sector, despite recommendations from the Environmental Audit Committee that it should. The British Energy Security Strategy of April 2022 did not rectify that omission. Neither have any actions of the recent government - indeed the reverse.
In March 2022 the Rural Community Energy Fund ended. In June 2022 the then Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, told us that "the Government has decided not to provide further grant funding for community energy projects through a national Community Energy Fund at the present time." He directed us to the Energy Redress Fund, newly opened up to community businesses, and the UK-wide national growth funds - see our Funding Database. Sadly neither give direct access to feasibility and development funding that the Rural Community Energy Fund provided, which in the NW of England mobilised £69 of community investment for every £1 of government seed funding. The growth funds are mostly capital funds where £1 of grant creates £1 of project.
We ask you to write to your MP asking them to write to the new BEIS Secretary of State to urgently put in place support measures for community energy. See CEE's recent letter to the Secretary of State for detailed reasoning. (See suggested MP letter below)
Why harnessing our MPs is key.
Already, CE friendly MPs have helped us get questions asked and meet the minister. More than 300 support the Local Electricity Bill. An 'All Party Parliamentary Group on Community Energy' was recently formed. We have built profile and recognition in Westminster.
We argue in our Parliamentary Briefing (bit.ly/CEEbriefing) that community energy is essential to achieving net-zero and as such should be supported financially and in policy. Ministers are increasingly echoing our messaging: Kwasi Kwarteng in June 2020 - "If we’re going to get to Net Zero we're going to need more local engagement" Alok Sharma to the Environmental Audit Committee - "We're going to have to take the public with us".
The Conservative government has a majority of 80 seats so Conservative MPs are especially important, particularly those in the so-called Red Wall of northern seats gained from Labour to whom the government listens carefully.
We are working to get community energy and people back at the centre of government energy policy. But for this to have any possibility of making the real change we need lots more community energy champions in parliament, ideally Conservative MPs. We need the photographs of the Secretary of State waving on a community energy rooftop soon.
We will write to all relevant ministers in the new government, committees, pressure groups and opposition spokespeople to get our community energy asks before them. We will work with partner organisations like the Energy Saving Trust, Green Alliance, NEA and the Climate Coalition to join up our campaigning.
Make your MP a community energy champion
MPs can only really respond to people and projects in their constituencies. So we are asking community energy people and organisations (you!) to connect with and make an ally of your MP, whatever their political complexion and whether you like them or not. Invite them to visit your project and to invest in it, to share-issues and project launches, take and share good pictures (with the aim of getting them featured prominently on their website, Facebook page, into their newsletters), tag them in social media, update them on progress, get them wanting to boast about you in Parliament. Also to do things for you - ask parliamentary questions, write to ministers. Then they will be much more willing to champion the sector or your project when we need them.
Please (and also mobilise supporters to) email, write to or tweet your MP, urging them to visit your project and champion community energy in the House; you can adapt our suggested letter to do this. Please explain why community energy is great - (benefits to your local community) - and, as a trusted intermediary, the key to engaging the wider community to actively participate in the urgent energy transition. Attach the CEE Parliamentary Briefing.
Your MP can be found at https://www.theyworkforyou.com/ (where you can also send them a message). Full contact details, and how MPs prefer to be addressed, is available at https://members.parliament.uk/members/Commons
Please write to local newspapers in the same vein.
We welcome the Community Energy Fund but the government must go further.
The Minister, Andrew Bowie, said that the government is 'considering other options that will better address' the real problems facing community energy including 'high start-up costs'. He promised that these options would be presented when the Bill returns to the House for Report Stage on 5 September. Ahead of that, as a result of negotiations with the Local Electricity Bill sponsor, David Johnston, the government has announced plans for a Community Energy Fund for England only, of £10m over the next 2 years. Thank you to all who have already written to their MPs. It will have made a difference. We welcome this a first step which the government must build upon.
Please ask your MPs to attend the Report Stage of the Energy Bill on 5 September and speak to urge the government to support community energy further. This could have an immediate effect if enough MPs speak. It will be our last chance to get new measures from this government for a while. The Labour Party has of course pledged £400m a year in low interest loans for communities to deliver energy projects, if they win the next election.
We need the government to pledge to address the local supply issue urgently, to enable community 'shared ownership' in local commercial renewable energy developments, to open up planning and regulation to support community energy, including community onshore wind energy and improve connections to the grid.
The clauses have been retabled by Chris Skidmore MP as NC08 and NC09. Wera Hobhouse MP has also tabled NC24 in support of community energy. You can read them here
To find your MP's name, email and preferred mode of address go to https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP
Please write a very short email in your own words making these basic points. Subject could be something about attending the Energy Bill Report Stage, 5 Sept, to champion community energy.
(If you have already written, reforward your email, thanking them for writing to the Sec of State, welcoming the Community Energy Fund, asking them to attend the Report Stage of the Energy Bill on 5 September, to urge the government to offer more support to community energy, as outlined below)
Dear [MP name],
- Mention which CE organisation you belong to and very briefly what it has done/does.
- Welcome the government's new Community Energy Fund (for England only) as a first step, which it must build on with more support measures to enable community energy to grow and spread to play its vital role in the energy transformation.
- Ask your MP to attend the Report Stage of the Energy Bill on Tuesday 5 September to
- welcome the new £10 Community Energy Fund for England which will help the community energy sector begin to achieve its enormous growth potential.
- and to urge the Energy Minister, Andrew Bowie MP to establish
- local supply rights for community energy schemes, so that they can sell their power to local customers, as was the aim of two enabling amendments that were removed during the Energy Bill’s Committee stage in July, and
- annual reporting on the progress of the new fund and on progress towards establishing local supply rights.
- a 'Community Electricity Right' to shared ownership in local renewable energy projects as provided for in the Infrastructure Bill 2015, overdue for review.
- Thank them, perhaps invite them to visit your project, sign and add your address with postcode in the constituency. You could attach or link Community Energy England's Parliamentary Briefing at http://bit.ly/CEEbriefing which contains other policy proposals.
Please copy in firstname.lastname@example.org so we can track who's been contacted,
Please do tweet from your organisation’s account if possible. You can find MP Twitter handles here. Please ADD A PICTURE (essential - use one of your project ideally and 'tag' people in it to increase reach), personalise with relevant # and @.
Please don't delete the dot at the beginning.
Please speak up at the Energy Bill Report Stage debate on 5 September to urge the Minister to build on the welcome £10m Community Energy Fund for England, with plans for a right of local supply, shared ownership and more.