On 11 August the government announced a £10m fund, opening in early Autumn, to support the growth of community energy in England over the next two years.
This has long been the subject of lobbying by Community Energy England, was recommended by the Environmental Audit Committee inquiry, and the Net Zero Review. The previous Secretary of State, Kwasi Kwarteng, declined to provide any successor to the Rural Community Energy Fund which closed in March 2022.
CEE has supported Power for People’s campaign to incorporate their Local Electricity Bill (LEB) into the Energy Bill, which is currently going through parliament. The specific amendments on local supply were removed by Government. However this has led to some very helpful discussions between Community Energy England, Power for People, the Community Energy Contact Group (CECG) and Department of Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) which, through the championship of the LEB sponsor, David Johnston MP, has led to the offer of this fund. CEE thanks all members who wrote to their MPs asking them to vote for the LEB clauses at Report Stage and to write to the Secretary of State urging further support for community energy.
This fund will initially be based upon the same criteria as the previous Rural Community Energy Fund, although it will now be opened up to applicants from urban areas.
The aim of the fund is to help kickstart projects including small-scale wind farms and rooftop solar partnerships, as well as battery storage, rural heat networks, electric vehicle charging points, and fuel poverty alleviation schemes - all proposed, designed and owned by local people.
Further information can be found in this press release by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. CEE is actively engaging with the government to get the best Fund possible and will share more details with its members once available.
Emma Bridge, Chief Executive of Community Energy England, said:
''We welcome the launch of this much needed fund and the extension of support to include urban areas, which has been a key policy ask for CEE. It is heartening to see the Minister for Nuclear and Networks Andrew Bowie say that: ‘Local communities are at the heart of our plans to boost our energy security and grow the economy’.
While this announcement is a positive step, we believe that the current funding allocation falls short of adequately supporting local communities. Community energy brings so many more benefits. It is tackling the cost of living crisis, the climate crisis, while reinvigorating communities. It harnesses the passion, expertise and capital of the local community and returns all its profits to benefit that community. Community energy is essential to achieving net zero. To unlock its full potential, and drive the growth of the sector right across the country, 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.
We thank the Minister for this first step and we look forward to working with him and the wider government to ensure that community energy’s full potential is achieved.
We would also like to thank other dedicated MP supporters such as David Johnston, the sponsor of the Local Electricity Bill, and the Power for People campaign who have tirelessly championed community energy in Parliament and who worked to secure this deal.''
Meanwhile we would encourage member organisations to look at what they might apply for from the fund to be ready to apply when it opens. Urban projects will be eligible for the first time since 2017 and feasibility and development funding is available. Members could consider:
- Which stalled projects do you have that this fund might reawaken?
- What RCEF projects are in need of second stage funding to progress?
- What new exciting opportunities have you been itching to investigate or progress?
- How can you develop relations with your Local Net Zero Hub?
We note that the Labour Local Power Plan pledges £400m a year of low interest loans for communities to develop locally owned energy projects. This could be a good opportunity to initiate projects that could be progressed at speed, if Labour wins the next election.
1. The Community Energy Fund was announced by the Government on 11 August 2023:
2. Community Energy England (CEE) is a not-for-profit organisation that represents and supports those committed to the community energy sector. CEE was established by the sector to provide a voice for community energy and to help create the conditions within which it can flourish. This is done by increasing the profile of community energy, sharing learning and innovation, and by advocating for supportive policies at national and local levels.
For further information, please contact Duncan Law