This election year is an opportunity. If we are successful in persuading politicians of all stripes that community energy is essential for tackling climate change and delivering for local people, the sector could realise its potential and transform the UK’s energy system for the better.
In order to do this, we need community energy organisations to actively engage with their politicians this year. We are asking you to talk to local politicians and local people about what community energy could deliver for them. We may also have an important role in keeping climate high on the election agenda. It is the electorate's 3rd priority after health and the cost of living but far below that on most politicians' priority lists.
At CEE’s Autumn Forum, we discussed the ways that community energy organisations could engage with politicians ahead of the general election. Whatever the result, by this time next year, Parliament will have changed significantly. An unusually high number of MPs have announced that they will not stand for reelection and the boundaries are changing in almost all constituencies. This represents a significant opportunity for new ideas to be heard. To take advantage of this opportunity, the sector needs to start talking to MPs and candidates now. Here are some ideas and tips from CEE and our members for how to engage with local election candidates.
- Make a proposal to your board
- Find out who you need to talk to
- Explain what community energy could deliver
- Develop an ask
- Invite them to a site visit
- Be strategic about who you engage with
- Tell others to get involved
- Support a hustings
- Key resources
Make a proposal to your CE organisation’s board on how they could engage with the election
Before you can persuade local politicians to become champions for the sector, you will need to decide what you can deliver this year. Start off by setting out what you would like to achieve and then work out how you can achieve it. Get a budget (or apply for funding) to do what you propose and engage volunteers to help make it happen.
Find out who you need to talk to
Firstly, find out which constituency you are in (after boundary changes) here. This will also give you a sense of which parties are likely to do well in your area. Remember support for the parties has shifted seismically since the 2019 election. If possible, we would encourage you to reach out to the two candidates most likely to win the seat.
In many constituencies, candidates have already been selected for the next election. You can find a list here (scroll down to see the table).
Here is some guidance on writing to MPs or candidates.
If you can’t find details for how to get in touch with a candidate, try looking up their local party. These can be hard to contact directly, so start off by emailing or writing to a local councillor from the party. Explain to them who you are, how community energy benefits local people and ask whether you can speak to key members of the local party. Sell them your vision for what more community energy could achieve with supportive policy and ask them to champion the sector during and following the local elections in May. They can also ask their election candidate to pledge to support the sector once they have been selected. Once their general election candidate is announced, ask to meet with them.
Explain what community energy could deliver… and tell candidates what is needed to achieve it
Try to develop a short pitch for what community energy could deliver for local people with the right support. Tell a story about what has been achieved so far and give them a sense of what support your organisation would need to fulfil its potential. See our very short Parliamentary Briefing and our more detailed ‘Manifesto policy recommendations’.
Develop an ask
This can be anything from a message of support on social media or their website to writing to their party’s energy spokesperson asking them to improve their offer for the sector. For details on what the major parties are currently saying about community energy, you can read our blog here.
Invite them to a site visit
MPs and candidates are usually keen to visit local projects. Site visits can be a good way to make the case for the value community energy delivers locally and are a good opportunity to ask politicians to publicly offer their support to the sector. You can find a guide on how to organise a successful site visit here.
If you have multiple sites, be strategic about which candidates you engage with
MPs at risk of losing their seats are more likely to be receptive to asks from local groups. And it is clearly more valuable to invest time in talking to candidates who have a realistic chance of becoming MP. So if your organisation is spread across different sites in multiple constituencies, you might want to check this YouGov model for an indication of which seats may be up for grabs.
Encourage others to get involved
If your organisation has a social media presence, use that to tell people what your organisation could achieve with more supportive policies, both nationally and locally. Ask them to write to their local MP, candidates and councillors calling for better support for the sector. Tell your members about any engagements you have with local politicians and ask them to amplify your message. Produce leaflets about what you do, why it’s important and what more you could deliver with the right policy support.
Once the election has been called… organise or support a local hustings
Once the general election campaign has started, local candidates will often attend hustings. You can find Friends of the Earth’s guide to organising a hustings here. Other organisations may be planning to run climate hustings, so keep an eye out. If other hustings are going ahead, get in touch with the organisers to make sure community energy comes up.
There may be other local events you can get involved in. Make sure to advertise election events to your members and ask them to talk to local candidates about community energy.
- Find your constituency (and how it would have voted in 2019)
- List of prospective candidates for the general election
- Guidance on writing to MPs and candidates
- Find your local councillor
- CEE's Parliamentary Briefing
- CEE's proposals for party manifestos
- What the major parties in England say about community energy
- Tips on organising a successful site visit
- YouGov election projection based on polling (published January 2024)
- Friends of the Earth guide to planning an election hustings
Once you have come up with a plan, please fill out this short form to let us know what you're up to and to request any support you may need.