The UN’s COP 27 starts next week in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, where world leaders will gather to discuss how we can undertake multilateral action to tackle climate change and decarbonise. Building on the COP 26 conference in Glasgow, it is once again a time to focus minds on the immense challenge of achieving net zero.

At the Co-operative Party, we believe the next Labour & Co-operative Government should make acting on climate change and decarbonisation a key priority. Sir Keir Starmer has already shown substantial green ambitions with the recent announcement of the £28 billion Climate Investment Pledge and GB Energy, a new public-owned clean energy company working alongside private sector providers. Even though these are all important commitment thus far, we believe Labour can go further in our joint ambition to deliver clean, green energy for all – by ensuring community energy plays a leading role.

Community energy empowers people to take control of their energy production, usage and supply. Initiatives like community owned solar panels installations on schools, wind turbine developments to power rural communities and co-operatively delivered retrofitting, we believe should be, collectively owned and operated. By doing this, we can democratise the energy system and provide people with information about where their power comes from.

However, investment into community energy projects has been ignored by the UK Government in recent years. We saw this clearly with the ending of the Rural Community Energy Fund in April earlier this year. A landmark expansion in community ownership of energy assets is long overdue.

That’s why the Co-operative Party believe a new £90 million National Community Energy Fund is essential to help deliver transformative change to the energy system, by building renewable energy capacity and putting communities in control.

The new Fund would be composed of three individual financial mechanisms to help grow the sector. The first is a £30m grant fund, which would enable community energy projects across the country to get off the ground. The other two funding pots are revolving loans schemes, which after initial capitalisation would be self-perpetuating due to the repayment of interest and the loans. One would be a development loan scheme – for starting new projects and the other would be a construction loan scheme to help the building of new community energy installations, such as wind turbines. Through this new £90m combined fund, the community energy sector would create 150,000 new community energy owners.

For too long our existing energy system has been dominated by large private producers and suppliers. Community energy can put communities in control of their energy usage and production for the long-term – helping to lower energy bills and decarbonise homes and a new National Community Energy Fund provides a unique opportunity to help reduce people’s costs of living and decarbonise the energy sector. By doing this, we can create a fairer, greener future.