Press release

Power to the people – government boost to community energy

Local communities will be able to take control of their energy bills and help transform the energy system thanks to proposals unveiled today in Britain’s first Community Energy Strategy.

Local communities will be able to take control of their energy bills and help transform the energy system thanks to proposals unveiled today in Britain’s first Community Energy Strategy.

Over 50 per cent of people surveyed by DECC said that saving money on bills would be the major motivation for getting involved with community energy schemes, and around 3.5million bill payers are ready to get together with other people in their local community to take more control of their energy. Meanwhile while four in ten respondents said they were already interested in joining a community energy group, and taking part in collective switching or collective purchasing schemes.

Under the plans Government will broaden the support available for community energy projects, whereby people come together to reduce their energy use or purchase and generate their own energy. Plans include:

  • £10m Urban Community Energy Fund to kick-start community energy generation projects in England;

  • £1m Big Energy Saving Network funding to support the work of volunteers helping vulnerable consumers to reduce their energy;

  • a community energy saving competition, offering £100,000 to communities to develop innovative approaches to saving energy and money; and

  • a “one-stop shop” information resource for people interested in developing community energy projects.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:

“We’re at the turning point in developing true community energy.

“The cost of energy is now a major consideration for household budgets, and I want to encourage groups of people across the country to participate in a community energy movement and take real control of their energy bills.

“Community led action, such as collective switching, gives people the power to bring down bills and encourage competition within the energy market.”

Energy and Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker said:

“The Community Energy Strategy marks a change in the way we approach powering our homes and businesses - bringing communities together and helping them save money – and make money too.

“The Coalition is determined to unleash this potential, assist communities to achieve their ambitions and drive forward the decentralised energy revolution. We want to help more consumers of energy to become producers of energy and in doing so help to break the grip of the dominant big energy companies.”

Since 2008, at least 5000 community groups have participated in energy projects in the UK. The Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral project in Cheshire, for example, saved local households an average of £300 a year through encouraging behaviour change and installing simple energy efficiency measures.

In the future, the generation of electricity by communities themselves could put pressure on energy suppliers to drive down prices, creating warmer homes, cutting carbon emissions and diversifying the UK’s energy mix. Estimates suggest that energy generation schemes involving local communities, such as installing solar panels on social housing buildings, could supply enough electricity for 1 million homes by 2020.

The potential of community energy beyond this is even greater. Community shared ownership schemes with renewables developers will be an important future part of ensuring that local people reap the financial and social benefits of energy developments built in their area.

Government’s vision is that every community that wants to take forward an energy project should be able to do so. The Community Energy Strategy sets out how we are removing barriers faced by communities that want to take action on energy to create opportunities for more people to get involved.

Notes for Editors:

  • The Community Energy Strategy is available on GOV.UK

  • £10m Urban Community Energy Fund (UCEF):
    • Will support urban communities in England to develop renewable energy projects which provide economic and social benefits to the community;
    • sits alongside the existing Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF), and have the same method of application. Details of RCEF can be found on the WRAP website;
    • will be open to all communities in England that are not eligible to access RCEF;
    • as with RCEF, there will be two stages of funding: Stage one allows applications for grants of up to approximately £20,000 for feasibility work. Stage two allows applications for loans up to approximately £130,000 to support planning applications and develop robust business cases which will attract further investment.
  • £1million Big Energy Saving Network (BESN):
    • The Government funded Big Energy Saving Network launched last year with £900,000 to support eligible third sector organisations and community groups to deliver an extensive programme of outreach to vulnerable consumers, focussed on helping them to reduce their energy costs through assisted action on tariffs, switching and take-up of energy efficiency offers. The funding has been extended for 2014/15 to an additional £1million, which will enable Government to continue supporting and growing the Network of volunteers this year.
  • £100,000 community energy saving competition:
    • As part of the Community Energy Strategy, Government is launching a new community energy saving competition that will offer a minimum of £100,000 to incentivise communities to develop innovative approaches to saving energy and money. Six of the finalists will be given access to mentoring support to help them develop their business plans in more detail.
    • To register your interest in the competition email communityenergystrategy@decc.gsi.gov.uk
  • We will support the establishment of a “One-Stop Shop” information resource for community energy, developed with community energy groups using funding from Government.

  • The renewables industry has committed to facilitate a substantial increase in the shared ownership of new, onshore renewables developments and is already developing ever more ambitious and innovative approaches to community engagement and benefits. The Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change has asked an industry taskforce to work with the community sector and report back to him by spring 2014. This report will include a framework and timetable for implementation, and a level of ambition for community ownership of new renewables developments. We expect that by 2015 it will be the norm for interested communities to be offered some level of ownership of new, commercially developed onshore renewables projects.

  • More information on the Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral Project can be found on the Carbon Neutral Project website

  • Alongside the Community Energy Strategy, DECC has also published today a series of research reports assessing the scale, ambition and achievements of current community energy projects including: