The people have spoken. The Conservative government now has a majority of 80 seats. But 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.”
We have a plan to get community energy and people back at the centre of government energy policy. But for this to have any possibility of making 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 have written an Open Letter to the Prime Minister and aim to get at least 100 MPs signing it over the next few months. 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. We will advocate for community energy at Party Conferences. We will be looking into the possibility of drafting a Community Energy Bill.
MPs can only really respond to people and projects in their constituencies. So we need community energy people and organisations to enlist your MPs to champion your work and the urgent need for supportive policies and practical measures from government.
Please (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 use our suggested letter below to do this. Please explain why community energy is great - (benefits to your local community) - and, as a trusted intermediary, key to engaging the wider community to actively participate in the urgent energy transition.
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.
Sample MP email/letter.
Please cut, paste and personalise (including with local benefits of your project, perhaps). Please check and edit especially the bold text and [square brackets]. It may be useful to tweak according to which party you are contacting. See manifesto quotes below. Lettersby post are rarer nowadays and also work well.
Dear [MP name],
Congratulations on being elected as Member of Parliament! We wish you well in these challenging times.
I/we hope that the overwhelming majority of the new Conservative government will mean that they will, as the Prime Minister promised, make 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” in order “to be carbon-neutral by 2050.”
I/we write as [(a) volunteer(s)??] with [?? name of project]. We have [short summary of activity, including any Covid-19 related work].
I/we believe, with good evidence, that community energy is vital to taking the people with us in this urgent transition.
Community energy is local people getting together to deliver locally owned and controlled renewable energy, demand reduction and fuel poverty work. Community energy harnesses the passion, skill and capital of the community to deliver solutions to climate change and community resilience as well as huge social and community benefit. It’s win, win, win and it’s also hugely popular.
But for the last five years almost every policy change has prevented community energy playing its potentially transformative role.
We ask that you
- sign on to Community Energy England’s Open Letter to the Prime Minister at https://communityenergyengland.org/pages/open-letter-to-the-pm asking him to actively support community energy, something supported by 82% of people in recent polling.
- attend the debate of the Local Electricity Bill in the Commons on 28 April. It has been tabled by Peter Aldous MP and backed in the last parliament by 116 MPs. If made law, the Bill would empower community energy groups to sell electricity directly to their local communities by making the setup and running costs of doing so proportionate to the scale of the supply operation. You can find more information and read the Bill here: https://powerforpeople.org.uk/the-local-electricity-bill/.
- visit our project as soon as this becomes possible and champion community energy (and our project) in the House of Commons.
[Name, postal address and postcode - 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] Congratulations on becoming MP! #CommunityEnergy is key to the urgent #energytransition whilst also combating #ClimateChange and bringing #CommunityBenefit. Win, win, win & popular! Please sign this Open Letter to the PM. @Comm1nrgy https://communityenergyengland.org/pages/open-letter-to-the-pm
Party manifestos and policies
Many manifestos mention community energy.
- The Conservative Party's manifesto does not include any references to community energy, or to solar power. Statements potentially relevant are limited to 'We will establish a £150 million Community Ownership Fund to encourage local takeovers of civic organisations or community assets that are under threat – local football clubs, but also pubs or post offices' and 'We will help lower energy bills by investing £9.2 billion in the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals'. The manifesto also states 'We will use our £1 billion Ayrton Fund to develop affordable and accessible clean energy that will improve lives and help us to lead the world in tackling climate change', but initial information on this fund suggests it is focused on creation of new low-carbon technology rather than deployment.
The absence of community energy from the manifesto contrasts markedly with statements from previous Conservative government ministers. For example, the last energy and climate change minister, Chris Skidmore, said ‘I continue to believe that community energy remains an important part of the energy system, delivering energy efficiency and demand management, supporting switching and engaging the wider community on the key challenges of the energy transition and wider climate change as well as owning generation assets'. Consequently, the attitute or approach of this Conservative government to community energy cannot be determined from their manifesto.
In Boris Johnson's victory speech he said 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.” (watch, read)
- The Labour Party's manifesto says, 'We will expand distributed and community energy' and 'We will invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and in electric community car clubs.' This direct reference is notable for the sector but no further details related to community energy are included in the manifesto. However, the Energy section states that Labour will 'develop the recommendations of our ‘30 by 2030’ report to put the UK on track for a net-zero-carbon energy system within the 2030s'.
Labour's 30 by 2030 report followed its recent conference decision to go for net-zero by 2030 and said: 'Recommendation 27: Encourage the adoption of distributed and community energy to accelerate delivery of energy decarbonisation’ and ‘Reinstating of the Feed in Tariff, essential for the purposes of supporting residential PV installations and community-scale projects. This change could be rapidly introduced and according to a recent survey would be widely supported by the UK public.’
- The Co-operative Party’s Policy Platform has a whole section on community energy developed in close consultation with CEE. See page 39.
- The Green Party manifesto says, ‘The Green New Deal for energy will revolutionise the way we produce and use energy. It will enable communities to develop their own renewable energy projects, so that the benefits of locally generated energy can stay local.’
- The Liberal Democrat’s manifesto says:
Renewable Energy. We aim to decarbonise the power sector completely, supporting renewables and household and community energy to create jobs and cut fossil fuel imports; our interim goal is to reach at least 80 per cent renewable electricity by 2030. We will:
Accelerate the deployment of renewable power, providing more funding, removing the Conservatives’ restrictions on solar and wind and building more interconnectors to guarantee security of supply; we aim to reach at least 80 per cent renewable electricity in the UK by 2030.
Expand community and decentralised energy, support councils to develop local electricity generation and require all new homes to be fitted with solar panels.
Warm Homes and Lower Energy Bills
...by investing over £6 billion a year on home insulation and zero-carbon heating by the fifth year of the Parliament. We will:
Empower councils to develop community energy-saving projects, including delivering housing energy efficiency improvements street by street, which cuts costs.
The Liberal Democrat's Net Zero by 2045 policy paper also mentions community energy several times, but lacks the focus we would hope given Ed Davey’s historical support. At a conference fringe meeting he said 'We should make it a key part of strategy and talk about it a lot' and Wera Hobhouse MP said 'How we energise the community is a key part of how we get to net zero.'