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, mentioned community energy but contained no concrete plans or support measures for the sector, despite recommendations from the Environmental Audit Committee that it should.
We ask you to write to your MP urging them to write to the BEIS Secretary of State to remedy these omissions by putting in place support measures from the departmental budget as soon after the Comprehensive Spending Review as possible. For him to prioritise community energy he must be made to understand the importance and see the value for money. (See suggested letter below)
Why harnessing our MPs is key.
Already, CE friendly MPs have helped us get questions asked and meet the minister. More than 260 MPs support the Local Electricity Bill and increasing numbers are supporting the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. There is overwhelming support for a green recovery and to #BuildBackBetter. We have built profile and recognition in Westminster. We succeeded in getting two extensions for the Feed-in Tariff for community energy. We are lobbying for policy and financial support for the sector as essential to achieving net-zero. We are considering tabling a Community Energy Bill in the future. Ministers are 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 Blue Wall of northern seats gained from Labour.
In his victory speech, Boris Johnson said that it was a ‘sacred trust’ to voters to make their priorities for change happen, including the “colossal investments in infrastructure, in science, using our incredible technological advantages to make this country the cleanest, greenest on earth, with the most far-reaching environmental programme” and “to be carbon-neutral by 2050.” But many reports from the Institute of Government, the Committee on Climate Change, the PM's Council for Science and Technology say the government has neither a grip nor a plan that is sufficient to the challenge or likely to deliver.
We have seen £9.2bn pledged to build energy efficiency. However, the deeply flawed Green Homes Grant has recently been closed showing again how bad the government is at delivering local solutions.
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 next Secretary of State waving on a community energy rooftop soon.
We will write to all relevant ministers, 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.
Please cut, paste, reword and personalise (including with local context and benefits of your project). MPs often forward your email to the Secretary of State's office so the less it looks like a standard campaign email the more powerful it will be.
If you are inviting your MP to a specific event or visit please refer to that near the top. Fridays and weekends are best or during the parliamentary recess.
Please check and edit especially the bold italicised text and fill in between [square brackets]. If emailing please copy in email@example.com and send me any non-automatic responses. It may be useful to tweak according to which party you are contacting. Letters by post, especially hand-written, are rarer nowadays and also work well.
Dear [MP name],
No plan for community energy in the Net Zero Strategy
I/we write as [(a) volunteer(s) with/member of??] [?? name of project] in your constituency.
The Secretary of State promised to set out the government’s “future plans for community energy” in the Net Zero Strategy, to “act in lieu of a specific strategy on community energy” which the Environmental Audit Committee had recommended in April. Whilst community energy is mentioned, the Net Zero Strategy does not “emphasise the importance of community energy” to achieving net zero or propose “practical support measures to harness the potential of community energy” as recommended by the Environmental Audit Committee.
I/We ask you to write to the Secretary of State on our behalf lamenting these omissions and urging him to put these support measures in place as soon as possible once he has secured a departmental budget in the Spending Review.
Community energy is essential to involving people and communities in inventing and adopting climate solutions in the net zero transition and to maximise social benefit from it. The Climate Change Committee warns “if the people of the UK are not engaged in this challenge - the UK will not deliver Net Zero by 2050... people need to be brought into the decision-making process and derive a sense of ownership of the Net Zero project.” This is at least as important as technological transformation to which the Strategy commits billions of pounds. The lack of support for people, communities or social businesses to take local climate action means that 'world-leading' net zero policy is likely to fail to deliver and those billions will have been wasted. Community energy must be supported by the government to catalyse awareness, behaviour change and the invention of and participation in local energy solutions at scale.
The Net Zero Strategy promises, “we will empower local leaders to kickstart their own net zero initiatives.” This must include practical support and funding, not just for local authority leaders but the local leaders of the 424 (and growing) community energy groups across the UK who have kickstarted so many net zero initiatives, and delivered huge community benefits from them over the last 10 years. For the last five years, almost every policy change has prevented community energy from playing its potentially transformative role. The sector is set to grow exponentially again if it is appropriately valued and supported by the government.
We ask that you, please:
- Write to the Secretary of State at BEIS urging him to put in place “practical support measures to harness the potential of community energy” as soon as possible.
- Visit our project soon and champion community energy (and our project) in the House of Commons.
- Read Community Energy England's very short Parliamentary Briefing at bit.ly/CEEbriefing
- Sign up to support the Local Electricity Bill which would boost community-scale clean energy and mean that local people could be customers of local renewable generators.
Thank you in advance.
[Name, postal address and postcode in the constituency - required for the MP to act on your behalf]
Please do tweet from your organisation’s account if possible. You can find MP Twitter handles here. Please ADD A PICTURE (essential - use the one above or below if necessary), personalise with relevant # and @. Please don't delete the dot at the beginning.
.@[MPtwitterhandle] #CommunityEnergy is key to engaging people in the urgent #energytransition to #netzero, combatting #ClimateChange and bringing #CommunityBenefit. Win, win, win & popular, supported by 82% of people!
But is not supported in the #NetZeroStrategy @Comm1nrgy