Leading UK civil society organisations have united to promote a dramatic increase in community-owned renewable energy
A new coalition of leading UK civil society groups, representing 12 million people, is calling for a dramatic increase in community-owned renewable energy in the UK.
The coalition, which includes The Co-operative, the National Trust, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, the Church of England and Campaign to Protect Rural England, believes that communities can and should play a substantial role in meeting the UK’s targets for reducing carbon emissions and producing renewable energy.
In a vision statement entitled Community Energy 2020, the groups said that energy co-operatives are a way to create sustainable communities where people have equal opportunity to own and democratically control their means of generating energy.
The statement proposes that through genuine involvement of local people, this approach will lead to energy infrastructure being built with respect for communities, landscape and wildlife. With communities owning their means of producing energy – such as solar panels on a public building, local wind turbines or a small-scale hydro electric plant – they can manage their own natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations.
“We see community energy as people working together, not having schemes imposed on them,” said Ruth Bond, chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.
Currently, 99% of the UK’s electricity is generated by just six companies. However, community-owned energy is the fastest growing sector of co-operative businesses in the country, according to trade body Co-operatives UK. There has been a 24% rise in the number of member-owned energy co-operatives since 2007, the group announced in October last year.
Ed Mayo, general secretary of Co-operatives UK said: “The co-operative model is a perfect antidote to current energy practices. Co-operatives put their members in control of where profits go, whether that is back to members, back to the community or to invest in viable green energy projects. The big six energy companies are still the giants in the market, but grassroots co-operatives are now organising under their feet.”
The new coalition of NGOs is calling on government to support the community energy sector through long-term, stable policies and financial backing.
The organisations themselves, which were brought together by The Co-operative and sustainable development organisations Forum for the Future and Carbon Leapfrog, have pledged to continue working with each other and their members to promote community energy.
In 2011, CEOs and directors of the coalition groups visited Germany to see examples of successful community schemes.
Paul Monaghan, head of social goals at The Co-operative, said: “We want nothing less than a clean energy revolution, with communities controlling and benefiting from their own renewable energy.”
For a free copy of the Rough Guide to Community Energy visit: roughguide.to/communityenergy