Labour's new 'Local Power Plan' will genuinely 'turbocharge community energy'


Community Energy England welcomes Labour’s ‘Local Power Plan’ to invest in thousands of local clean energy projects, aiming for Clean Power by 2030

Labour's 'Climate Mission'. See p 13 for the Local Power Plan

Having worked with the Labour Party and the Coop Party over recent months Community Energy England is delighted to welcome Labour’s ground-breaking Local Power Plan, announced today (Sunday 18 June), for major investment of £400m a year in community energy and £600m a year to local authorities “to build clean power in cities, towns and villages across Britain to boost national energy security and cut energy bills, as we turbocharge our mission for clean power by 2030.” 

This unprecedented pledge of support for the community and cooperative sector from Labour will genuinely “turbocharge community energy”, as recommended by Chris Skidmore MP in his Net Zero Review. Community energy will now have the potential to be a powerhouse for energy transformation in every community. 

The announcement continues: “Labour’s Local Power Plan will see its nationally owned GB Energy company develop up to 8GW of renewable energy projects – over twice the size of the world’s largest offshore wind farm - within 5 years.”

“GB Energy will partner with councils and communities to put solar panels on public land or the roofs of housing estates and empower local communities to come forward with projects directly owned by local people.” It will also partner with devolved and regional governments to build local energy plans.

“The crucial condition of the investment will be that local communities see the benefit of the clean power in direct cost of living support – for example through discounts on energy bills.” 

Much of the money pledged will be in the form of ‘revolving loans’ to kickstart projects and get them to ‘investment readiness’, when they will mobilise more private and community investment. That money will then recycle to kickstart more projects.

Community Energy England welcomes the emphasis on local initiatives, planning and ownership, rather than centralised, big business focussed investment (eg Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage) that we have seen from government in recent years. This will engage people and communities actively in the transformation, without which, as the Climate Change Committee makes clear, ‘it will not be possible to get close to meeting a net-zero target.’ 

We welcome, too, the plan “to extend and strengthen existing shared ownership models” and the pledge to insulate 19 million homes.

The announcement recognises that local and community energy can reduce the pressure on the grid. By localising energy we can also reduce the potentially huge costs of reinforcing the national grid.

It will also deliver huge community benefits since community energy dedicates all of its profit to that end. 

The sector doubled in size every year between 2014 and 2017 but due to policy uncertainty and the removal of almost all government support has found it challenging to develop projects in recent years. It is tirelessly enterprising and has diversified, expanding low-carbon transport and heat activities significantly and energy efficiency work by 38% in 2021.

The 2030 Vision, produced in 2020, envisaged the sector growing between 12 and 20 fold, with 5.7 gigawatts of installed energy generation, enough to power 2.2m homes, support 8700 jobs, save 2.5 million tonnes of carbon and generate £1.8bn for the economy.

Labour's vote of confidence in, and practical support of, the brilliant people and organisations that make up community energy, put these targets back in our grasp. In 2021 despite only being able to grow 2.4% the sector increased employment by 40%. Maybe we'll even exceed some of them! Community energy is ready to grow exponentially again! 

Community Energy England’s Chief Executive, Emma Bridge said, “

“We warmly welcome Labour’s emphasis on bringing together communities with the public and private sectors as a key part of their Clean Power plan. Community energy groups are already working with schools, businesses and community buildings to install renewable energy, helping fuel poor homes to reduce their energy bills, supporting unemployed people to build skills and gain new employment, and much more. But there are many parts of the country that don’t yet have community energy.

Building a zero-carbon energy system is a social issue that requires a just transition. Community energy builds the consent, trust and active participation to make this happen. Labour’s announcement today is a strong step towards enabling all communities to have access to their own energy projects and creating a fair, zero carbon energy system. We look forward to working with them to realise that vision.”