white wind turbines on brown grass field under white clouds and blue sky during daytime
Photo by Jason Ng on Unsplash

Whether it’s the climate emergency, soaring energy prices or weakening energy security from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the country is crying out for rapid change in our energy sector.

For us in the Co-operative Party, the answer is easy: we know ownership matters. That’s why community-owned energy, where local people own and control renewables like solar panels and wind farms that power their communities, will and can solve many of challenges we face as a country.

Community energy projects are already delivering for communities across England. From solar panels in Brixton to wind farms in Bristol, these examples show another way is possible by building renewable energy capacity and putting communities in control. But to make this reality everywhere, for everywhere, they need both regulatory changes and serious financial backing.

The UK Government’s announcement of a new £10 million fund last week to support the growth of community energy in England over the next two years is certainly a step in the right direction. Since the Government allowed previous schemes to expire, we at the Co-operative Party have been calling for exactly such a move and it’s a tribute to the tireless campaigning from the Community Energy sector that the Government have finally listened. However to unlock the true potential of community-owned energy and drive the much-needed growth of the sector our country so desperately needs, we must be more ambitious in our vision for locally-owned energy.

We need a government which will unlock the potential in every single community. A government which matches ambition with action.

And with a Labour and Co-operative government in Number 10, we can do exactly that.

Under Labour’s recently announced Local Power Plan, up to a billion pounds a year will be invested in green energy schemes, with £400m earmarked for community-owned energy – creating up to a million of new owners of energy across the UK, and marking the biggest expansion of community energy that this country has ever seen. Compared to the Government’s proposed £10m over two years, it is a totally different scale of ambition.

Of course, funding is only one of the barriers that communities looking to set-up their own green energy projects are facing. As Community Energy England itself have said: ‘’we urge the government to continue to work with the sector to overcome other barriers, to progress local supply and shared ownership of the fast-growing renewable energy sector.’’ So it’s all well and good committing to more funding, but practical action on the ground is also needed to grow the sector. That’s why under a Labour and Co-operative government, planning barriers will be broken down so it’s easier for energy to be owned and controlled by the people who use it.

Like Government minister Andrew Bowie says, community energy can ‘have a lasting positive impact, bringing costs down, building stronger communities, and securing clean energy for generations to come’. But if the Government are serious about delivering for the community energy sector, this first step must be followed by further funding and further regulatory and planning reform. Until then, it is clear that only a Labour & Co-operative Government will deliver a community energy plan that matches the ambition our communities have for themselves to deliver the clean, green power of the future.