black solar panels on purple flower field during daytime
Photo by Andres Siimon on Unsplash

You can’t force co-operation on people, in the same way as you can’t spontaneously create fire. But it is possible to create the right conditions which allow a spark to become a flame, and a flame to catch and become a blaze. Perhaps inspired by the Co-op Party’s 12 ideas for local government manifestos, it’s no surprise that Co-operative councils are at the forefront of empowering communities to take control of their own energy production.

Many other councils currently look to Preston and their work on community wealth building for inspiration when it comes to designing their own economic development proposals. It may come to pass that Preston will be similarly lauded for its work promoting community energy, given the manifesto commitment to “build capacity for public and community production of energy”.
But they’re far from the only council seeking to fane the flames of community energy. In North Ayrshire – which has a manifesto crammed full of co-operative ideas – Labour & Co-operative councillors “will support community groups with their own renewable energy ambitions and provide support for the creation of local energy co-operatives”.

North Ayrshire Labour & Co-operative councillors also want to seek to use their convening and financial power for good: “North Ayrshire Labour’s investment in council-owned renewable energy presents an opportunity to do things differently. We will therefore explore opportunities to create local renewable energy supply chains, working in partnership with trade unions to explore democratic ownership models.”

There is of course a different political dimension in Scotland and the manifesto makes the point that the SNP’s energy policy means that Scotland’s renewable energy is predominantly foreign owned, and their lack of an industrial strategy means the jobs are offshored too. Different but similar perhaps? Many in England many feel that the Conservative Government’s energy policy results in the same outcomes – which is why it’s great to see councils like Hackney push back against the UK Government’s economic policies.

Hackney Council, with its Co-operative Mayor, has long sought to embed co-operation in what it does, so it is no surprise that it not only has a track record in supporting community energy but is ambitious for the future: they will set up at least one new co-op within the field of community energy, are looking to provide 100% community energy in one of their regeneration areas, and the Hackney Community Energy Fund to support community-led energy groups to power schools with renewable energy.

These are three examples from three very different councils from across the county. With manifestos being published on daily basis, we can be confident that there will be more pledges on community energy from Co-operative councils, putting in place the conditions to allow an energy revolution.