The energy crisis will be the top of people’s worries for many months to come. A drastic rise in the energy cap over winter, will see many bills unaffordable for households. It didn’t have to be this way. Like many of the big issues we face, the government has sat on its hands and failed to bring about the structural changes needed to mitigate the crisis. A series of backward steps in policy have meant less investment in renewable energy and efficiency.

Despite that, the co-operative movement has been rising to the challenge and self-organising locally to address failings of the energy market.

Community Energy already exists. There are around 500 organisations across the country that produce power locally through renewable sources to be used by the community. Mid-counties Co-operative is the only provider to offer a community energy tariff to its customers, where members have been able to support and fund community energy projects through their bills. But so much more could be done. That’s why we have been calling on the Government to establish a new National Community Energy Fund – to bring forward more community energy projects that reduce bills locally. To reduce our reliance on international markets, we need a step change in the growth of community energy.

But increasing the production of energy is just one part of the solution to an energy crisis. Actually reducing our consumption of energy is equally important, and importantly, can be achieved much quicker than building a new wind or solar farm. Almost half our housing in the UK has a low energy rating, meaning there is a huge potential to make our homes more energy efficient and reduce bills, as well as reaching important targets to tackle climate change. Our homes account for more than 20% of the country’s total carbon emissions, mainly from our heating which is reliant on fossil fuels. Retrofit co-ops already exist, and they are already running retrofit projects, but we need this to be on a much larger scale, with national funding over the next decade. That why our members are backing the Great Homes Upgrade campaign, which is seeking to upgrade 19 million homes by 2030.

A regional network of retrofit co-ops would allow residents to have a stake in the solution, avoiding the pitfalls of previous national schemes that often used large contractors with many sub-contractors – such as in Preston where over 300 homes were effected with mould and damp after poorly fitted insultation was installed through a national scheme. Many retro-fit co-ops now provide an end-to-end service, with quality control built in. With a consistent infrastructure, they can ensure long term quality investments in houses and invest in the green skills needed to expand retrofitting. The Mayor of Greater Manchester has already launched a Retrofit Skills Hub to educate over a thousand of people in retrofitting skills.

These local solutions are in existence now: the challenge is now to scale them up. With a renewed focus from government and sustainable funding, our co-operative movement can play a bigger role in addressing the energy crisis.