Community Energy England (CEE), the membership body representing over 200 local community energy generation schemes has today issued a challenge to energy suppliers, asking them to follow the lead of Co-op Energy, who has announced it will offer a route to market for community energy schemes, regardless of their size, and will ensure a market reflective rate for the energy it purchases from them.
The call follows the CEE conference, Life After FiT’s, where experts discussed new innovations and ideas to help maintain the momentum of the sector in the wake of subsidy cuts following the closure of the government feed-in-tariff programme. With the government’s Smart Export Guarantee scheme, SEG, still under consultation, new community energy schemes are currently in limbo, and until the SEG policy is finalised, will have to export any surplus energy to the grid without receiving any payment for their power.
Emma Bridge, chief executive of Community Energy England, said: “We welcome the commitment from Co-op Energy. They are leading the way and demonstrating that responsible businesses don’t need to wait for government to act; instead they are providing measures to allow community energy schemes to access a route to market now, with the knowledge that they will receive a fair price for their energy.
“We call on the other energy suppliers to also offer suitable tariffs for community energy groups. We’ll be encouraging our members and supporters, as part of this year’s Community Energy Fortnight, to ask their own energy suppliers to follow the lead of Co-op Energy and show meaningful support for community energy. We often hear warm words from the big suppliers, this is a chance to see them take practical action.”
The challenge to business from CEE runs in parallel to its response to the government consultation on how the SEG might work. CEE has called on government to develop measures specifically designed to enable new community energy projects to meet the potential they have to drive the development of a more localised smart energy system, and are encouraging government officials at BEIS to work with them to scope how a ‘Smart Community Energy Export Guarantee’ could work.
Co-op Energy has long supported community energy, and chief executive, David Bird said: “Energy suppliers have a powerful role to play in helping the public understand that our energy landscape is changing.
“Promoting renewable energy, and being clear about how and where it is produced and who benefits, can encourage customers to change their energy consumption habits as we move to a digital and decentralised power system.
“Community energy groups can help us do this as they are the local, trusted and visible groups that are showing how clean, green energy can benefit neighbourhoods up and down the country.
“Through our new Community Power tariff, Co-op Energy customers are now supporting 79 different community energy groups by buying electricity exclusively from community energy schemes.
“This is just one practical way we can support the community energy sector in the wake of the closure of the feed in tariff, and we encourage other community energy schemes to talk to us so we can work out the best way to support them too.”
The challenge to energy suppliers comes as CEE announced the theme of Community Energy Fortnight 2019, 22 June – 7 July, as ‘People Powered Futures’ – exploring how community energy empowers future generations to fight climate breakdown through hands on actions at a local level, benefitting people and the planet.
The Fortnight is sponsored by Co-op Energy and supported by the Community Energy Coalition - a group of trusted and influential civic society organisations and sustainable energy experts, including The National Trust, Friends of the Earth, Forum for the Future and the Women’s Institute, who are together working to help enable communities take control of their energy.
Emma Bridge, continued: “We’re excited to once again be working together with a whole host of organisations, large and small, to help spread the word that it is possible for communities to generate their own clean, green energy, benefit the environment and local people.
“Community energy groups and their members are doing just this across the UK, and we want more people of all ages and from all backgrounds to know and understand the impact that they too could achieve by either getting involved in an existing scheme or starting their own community energy project. Not all projects involve solar panels or hydro power, we’re also encouraging projects that help make our homes, places of work, education and leisure, as energy efficient as possible.
“By the end of Community Energy Fortnight we’d like to be sharing news of more energy suppliers supporting community energy schemes to generate clean, green energy.”