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Community Energy Strategy aims to take on the big six firms

The first of its kind the UK, the Community Energy Strategy aims to spark a ‘decentralised energy revolution’

The UK’s first Community Energy Strategy has been launched to help local communities generate their own renewable energy and take on the ‘big six’ energy giants.

Ministers broadened support for community-owned clean energy – such as solar panels, wind turbines or hydroelectric generators – with potential to cut hundreds of pounds a year off bills.

New funding will also encourage neighbourhoods to share energy-saving advice, make their homes more energy efficient and pursue collective switching from energy providers.

Communities could renewably power 1m UK homes by 2020 with the right support, according to government-commissioned research.

The new plans include:

• a £10m Urban Community Energy Fund to kickstart community energy generation projects in England;

• £1m Big Energy Saving Network funding to support volunteers helping vulnerable consumers cut their energy costs and usage;

• an energy-saving competition, offering £100,000 to communities to develop innovative approaches to saving energy and money;

• a ‘one-stop shop’ information resource for people interested in developing community energy projects;

• ensuring more communities get the chance to buy a stake in new clean energy projects by 2015.

The Community Energy Coalition (CEC), a group of civil society organisations with collective membership of 17 million people, said the scheme could fight climate change, reduce bills and tackle fuel poverty.

It includes plans to address barriers to community energy, such as limited grid access, and could revitalise communities through reinvested profits.

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, welcomed the announcement but said that the scheme didn’t go far enough.

“It’s pleasing that the government is finally catching up in at least announcing a scheme to support community energy generation,” she told Positive News. “But it is deeply disappointing that the funding allocated to it is paltry, sufficient for only around 70 schemes around England over the next seven years. Contrast this to Germany where 51% of their vastly larger renewable energy capacity is community owned.”

ResPublica, a thinktank that published a recent report on community renewables, said Germany has 1,100 electricity suppliers, including many owned locally, yet the UK has only 30 and the Big Six account for 98% of the UK market.

Climate Change minister Greg Barker said the strategy would help consumers “break the grip” of these companies and pledged a “decentralised energy revolution.”