There are 267 MPs (excluding Scottish MPs) who represent seats with community energy projects in them. That is a huge potential power-base if all of them can recognise the power and potential of our sector to enable the energy transition and bring benefit to their communities.
The Government's Net Zero Strategy, published on Tuesday 19 October, mentioned community energy but contained no concrete plans or support measures for the sector, despite recommendations from the Environmental Audit Committee that it should.
We have met with Greg Hands, the energy minister, who understood the critical funding gap which will exist if the Rural Community Energy Fund is not extended and expanded to included urban, heat and retrofit projects. He was not able to commit to this happening.
We ask you to write to your MP asking them to write to the BEIS Secretary of State to urgently put in place support measures from the BEIS departmental budget. See CEE's recent letter to the Secretary of State for detailed reasoning. (See suggested MP letter below)
Why harnessing our MPs is key.
Already, CE friendly MPs have helped us get questions asked and meet the minister. More than 300 support the Local Electricity Bill. An 'All Party Parliamentary Group on Community Energy' was recently formed. We have built profile and recognition in Westminster.
We argue in our Parliamentary Briefing (bit.ly/CEEbriefing) that community energy is essential to achieving net-zero and as such should be supported financially and in policy. Ministers are increasingly echoing our messaging: Kwasi Kwarteng in June 2020 - "If we’re going to get to Net Zero we're going to need more local engagement" Alok Sharma to the Environmental Audit Committee - "We're going to have to take the public with us".
The Conservative government has a majority of 80 seats so Conservative MPs are especially important, particularly those in the so-called Blue Wall of northern seats gained from Labour to whom the government listens carefully.
We are working to get community energy and people back at the centre of government energy policy. But for this to have any possibility of making the real change we need lots more community energy champions in parliament, ideally Conservative MPs. We need the photographs of the Secretary of State waving on a community energy rooftop soon.
We will write to all relevant ministers, committees, pressure groups and opposition spokespeople to get our community energy asks before them. We will work with partner organisations like the Energy Saving Trust, Green Alliance, NEA and the Climate Coalition to join up our campaigning.
Make your MP a community energy champion
MPs can only really respond to people and projects in their constituencies. So we are asking community energy people and organisations (you!) to connect with and make an ally of your MP, whatever their political complexion and whether you like them or not. Invite them to visit your project and to invest in it, to share-issues and project launches, take and share good pictures (with the aim of getting them featured prominently on their website, Facebook page, into their newsletters), tag them in social media, update them on progress, get them wanting to boast about you in Parliament. Also to do things for you - ask parliamentary questions, write to ministers. Then they will be much more willing to champion the sector or your project when we need them.
Please (and also mobilise supporters to) email, write to or tweet your MP, urging them to visit your project and champion community energy in the House; you can adapt our suggested letter to do this. Please explain why community energy is great - (benefits to your local community) - and, as a trusted intermediary, the key to engaging the wider community to actively participate in the urgent energy transition. Attach the CEE Parliamentary Briefing.
Your MP can be found at https://www.theyworkforyou.com/ (where you can also send them a message). Full contact details, and how MPs prefer to be addressed, is available at https://members.parliament.uk/members/Commons
Please write to local newspapers in the same vein.
Please cut, paste, reword and personalise (including with local context and benefits of your project). MPs often forward your email to the Secretary of State's office so the less it looks like a standard campaign email the more powerful it will be.
If you are inviting your MP to a specific event or visit please refer to that near the top. Fridays and weekends are best or during parliamentary recesses.
Please check and edit, especially the 'I/We' at the top and above the bullets and fill in details where you see [square brackets]. (Don't forget to add your MP's name and to remove brackets!) If emailing please copy in firstname.lastname@example.org and send me any non-automatic responses. It may be useful to tweak according to which party you are contacting. Letters by post, especially hand-written, are rarer nowadays and also work well.
Dear [MP name],
Westminster Climate Solutions Fair, State of the Sector 2022 and supporting community climate action.
[I/we] write as [(a) volunteer(s) with/member of??] [?? name of project] in your constituency. [add more details??]
Please attend the Westminster Climate Solutions Fair on Wednesday 6 July, 5-7pm in the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House, to meet representatives of the community energy sector and learn about the huge will for local climate action which people want the government to support. Please rsvp to email@example.com.
We also urge you to read the community energy State of the Sector 2022 report, which shows that despite enduring its most challenging year ever the sector engaged 217,000+ local people, created 183 new FTE jobs, saw a 38% increase in the delivery of community-led energy efficiency and energy saving services (123 organisations involved), which saved bill-payers £3.35 million. The main report also contains our policy asks. You can also read our very short Parliamentary Briefing at bit.ly/CEEbriefing
Notwithstanding recommendations from the Environmental Audit Committee that "Due to the urgency of the climate crisis and the vital roles communities will have to play in reaching net zero it is essential that a timely solution to support the long-term growth of community energy across the UK is found", the Secretary of State, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, has “decided not to provide further grant funding for community energy projects through a national Community Energy Fund at the present time.”
This was a specific recommendation of the Environmental Audit Committee to replace the successful £10 million Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF), which ended on 31 March, by funding a National Community Energy Fund, (supported by the Labour Coop Party and 75 national and community organisations including Community Energy England).
He points the sector to various sources of funding including the Voluntary Energy Redress fund, the Levelling Up Fund and the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund. These will be important sources of funding for the sector but they are a mix of capital and revenue funding. Community energy organisations can raise their own capital from community investors.
What the sector really needs is a small amount of grant funding to get projects ‘investment ready’ which the Community Energy Fund would provide. Without this huge amounts of local 'potential energy' in people, money and MegaWatts (and energy savings) will go untapped.
At our recent national Energy Transition conference, Lord Callanan mentioned Plymouth Energy Community’s planned Chelson Meadow Solar Farm which has received some £130,000 of development funding from the RCEF. He didn’t mention that this will mobilise £7-8 million of community capital to actually build it. That means for every £1 the government puts in they get about £60’s worth of project plus £35 of community benefit over the lifetime of the project. A pretty good return on investment compared to the Levelling Up Fund capital grants, where £1 of government money will create £1’s worth of project.
Community energy is also essential to mobilising people and communities to participate actively in the energy transition, without which it simply will not be possible to reach net zero, as the Climate Change Committee has repeatedly warned. Nearly two thirds of net zero measures depend on people’s decisions and behaviours.
[I/We] ask that you
- Attend the Westminster Climate Solutions Fair, in the Attlee Suite, Portcullis House from 5-7pm on Wednesday 6 July to meet representatives of the sector and show your support for local climate action. Please rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Write to the Secretary of State at BEIS objecting to this decision and asking that his “future plans for community energy”, promised to the Environmental Audit Committee for the Net Zero Strategy, finally appear in the Energy Bill, supported by the development of a detailed Community Energy Strategy.
- Visit our project soon and champion community energy (and our project) in the House of Commons.
Thank you in advance.
[Name, postal address and postcode in the constituency - required for the MP to act on your behalf]
Please do tweet from your organisation’s account if possible. You can find MP Twitter handles here. Please ADD A PICTURE (essential - use the one above or below if necessary), personalise with relevant # and @. Please don't delete the dot at the beginning.
.@[MPtwitterhandle] #CommunityEnergy is key to achieving #NetZero.
@KwasiKwartengMP @BEISgovuk must find departmental funds now to extend and expand the Rural Community Energy Fund to include urban, heat, retrofit and energy efficiency projects. @Comm1nrgy