What do the election manifestos say about community energy?


Labour manifesto plans would transform community energy nationwide.

  • Labour’s Local Power Plan would turbocharge community energy and local climate action
  • Targeted grants to local authorities and low interest loans to communities would kick start thousands of transformational local energy projects
  • Manifesto pledges to double onshore wind capacity, unlocking clean, cheap power across the country

Community Energy England welcomes the Labour manifesto. The party’s plans have the potential to transform our energy system through local climate action that benefits local people.

Labour’s Local Power Plan offers grants for local authorities and low interest loans for community energy organisations to do new local, community-led and owned clean energy projects. Over five years, this could deliver 8 gigawatts of solar and onshore wind – the equivalent of 2.5 nuclear power stations – enough to power 4.35 million homes.

Emma Bridge, Chief Executive of Community Energy England, said, “We welcome the Labour Manifesto’s plan to grow our fantastic community energy sector and unlock huge benefits for local people. Community energy projects deliver 12-13 times the community benefit of commercial energy installations so are uniquely well suited to engage local people to participate in the energy transformation. Labour’s Local Power Plan is a win, win, win for communities, local economies and the country.”

In 2021, the Environmental Audit Committee advised the government 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… to support the long-term growth of community energy across the UK.” Chris Skidmore MP in his Review of the Government’s Net Zero Policies recommended that the government “turbocharge community energy.” 

The Labour manifesto and their Local Power Plan demonstrate that the party understands that empowering people and communities to take local climate action, which will also benefit local people, is essential to achieving net zero.

Labour’s pledge to double onshore wind capacity by 2030 is welcome. New onshore wind power in England has been held back since the Conservative government introduced a de facto ban in 2015, so plans to unlock this cheap and clean source of electricity are good news for the community energy sector and the country.

Conservatives ignore community energy in 80 page manifesto

  • No mention of the future of the Community Energy Fund, launched by the government last year
  • Conservative Party commits to maintaining planning restrictions on onshore wind, which are stricter than rules for new gas stations
  • The party backs greater restrictions on rural solar projects

In August 2023, when launching the Community Energy Fund, Government Minister Andrew Bowie claimed that “local communities are at the heart of our plans to boost our energy security and grow the economy.” There is little evidence of that in the Conservative Party’s manifesto.

Instead of backing their own scheme to deliver “affordable, secure and clean home-grown energy and [promote] local growth” the document sets out plans for a less ambitious, slower route to net zero, despite the fact that the government is not on track to meet its own climate targets.

The manifesto doubles down on commitments to invest more in fossil fuels, including new gas power stations, while continuing to block renewable energy developments. Restrictions on new onshore wind turbines have effectively stopped new ones being built in England, with just a handful of new turbines being built per year.

Plans for £6bn of investment in improving housing efficiency are welcome. However, this is less than two thirds of what the 2019 Conservative manifesto promised. However, following the collapse of the Green Homes Grant Scheme, they failed to deliver all of the £9.2bn set out in that document.

Lib Dem manifesto backs community energy

  • The Liberal Democrats have pledged to expand community energy as part of their plan to reach net zero by 2045
  • The party would enable community energy organisations to sell electricity to local people
  • The manifesto calls for the removal of planning restrictions on new onshore wind

Earlier this year Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey pledged that his party would have the most radical offer on net zero of the major contenders at the general election. Their manifesto sets out plans to accelerate net zero by five years and to invest in renewable energy so that it generates 90% of the UK’s power by 2030.

Community energy forms a central part of their ambitions. The Lib Dems’ plans emphasise the role of local and smaller scale generation, pledging reforms to electricity markets enabling local supply, local energy grids and easier access to grid connections.

Ed Davey has experience working with community energy, having served as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change for the coalition government from 2012 to 2015. In this role, he published a Community Energy Strategy, which supported substantial growth for the sector before funding cuts by the Conservative government after 2015 eventually put the brakes on.

Other policies, such as the removal of planning restrictions on new onshore wind turbines and an emergency Home Upgrade programme, could empower community energy to generate more clean power and deliver more impartial and expert energy advice to local people.

Green Party puts community energy at heart of climate plans

  • Manifesto commits to local democratic ownership of energy “as far as is possible”
  • Plans for a minimum threshold of community ownership in all clean onshore energy in a local area
  • Party pledges to continue to back local supply through the Local Electricity Bill

Community energy forms a central thread throughout the Green Party’s plans to decarbonise our energy system. The Party’s manifesto sets out a suite of policies to expand the sector, removing barriers faced by existing organisations  and encouraging the development of community energy in areas it has not yet reached.

The Green Party’s only serving MP Caroline Lucas is standing down at this election, so any Green MPs that are elected this time will become the new face of the party. While any Green MPs are likely to be too few to push through their own political agenda, they can be effective at shaping parts of the political agenda through their appearances in the media and by raising issues in Parliament. So it is very encouraging that community energy forms such a key part of their manifesto.

The Greens are backing minimum thresholds for community ownership of clean onshore energy, more funds for the sector administered by regional investment banks and the removal of regulatory barriers to community energy. They have also pledged to continue the campaign for the Local Electricity Bill, a cross party effort to enable energy generators to supply electricity directly to local people.