It contains many eminently sensible suggestions on what is needed to enable community energy in the UK to reach the levels seen in the likes of Denmark and Germany.
We are totally behind proposals for the ‘alignment of HMRC policy with the Government’s new Community Energy Strategy’ and ‘the maintenance and extension of tax relief to investors in community-owned renewables projects’. But perhaps the provision we most rigorously agree with is the call for local communities to be given a mandatory Right to Invest in local renewable energy projects. This could be an enormous development for the social economy given energy projects account for around 60% of the UK’s total infrastructure project pipeline, totalling over £200 billion.
Every major political party in the UK is (in theory) committed to an expansion of community-owned energy – and why shouldn’t they be given across Europe there are now hundreds of co-operatives and social enterprises that are not only delivering clean, low-carbon energy but local employment opportunities, community development funds and fuel poverty alleviation.
When politicians laud community energy they usually point to Germany, where nearly half of renewable energy capacity is owned by individuals, community groups and private developers (and this is a country where renewables accounted for a sizeable 31% of electricity generation in the first half of 2014).
But there is a country that has an even more impressive track record. Wind power provided 41% of Denmark’s electricity consumption in the first half of 2014, and 62% in January. This incredible progress is in large part down to the fact that 70-80% of wind turbines in the country are under some form of community ownership. Which in turn results from Denmark’s Right to Invest legislation that requires developers to offer 20% ownership of wind projects larger than twenty five metres to local communities. In Denmark (and Germany for that matter), citizens and communities have been the driving force for not only the development of renewable energy revolutions, but their acceptance as well.
The business I have the privilege to lead, Co-operative Energy, is a customer-owned energy supplier. We have some 220,000 customers and seek to not only source the greater part of our electricity from renewable sources (68% last year), but from community generation projects.