Monday saw the second reading of the government’s Energy Bill. Among other measures, the Bill (if passed in its current form) will remove public subsidy from wind energy projects via the early closure of the Renewables Obligation for onshore wind.
Co-operative MP Jonathan Reynolds spoke in the debate, arguing that by reducing the range of benefits and subsidies available for renewables, and for community energy in particular, there would be fewer incentives for communities to host new energy infrastructure in their area.
The result, he warned, would be a more centralised, less diverse energy supply:
‘The third missed opportunity is decentralisation. The comments on that by the hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) were extremely thoughtful. There is a need to decentralise and diversify the benefits and costs of energy subsidies, as well as where they are put, to make the situation more equitable and to deal with the issue of local opposition to planning new energy infrastructure. My own political party—not the Labour party, but the Co-operative, by which I am dually sponsored—has a fine record of being consistent and actively campaigning for that.
If we want communities to host electricity generation closer to their homes than has been the case historically because of the system we have used, we must find ways to bring them in and for them to see some benefit from it. Some of the hon. Gentleman’s comments were a little harsh, because some developers offer, for example, substantial reductions on energy bills for people who host nearby onshore wind. We should, however, look at ways in which to diversify the ownership structure of many such developments, as has happened on the continent. As he rightly said, if local communities feel that they are receiving a benefit, they will pay greater heed to the need for such developments close to them.’