Community Power Empowers
Urban Forum has published Community Power Empowers - a look at successful community, co-operative and municipal renewable energy projects from across Europe.
The release of Community Power Empowers is timely because the new Coalition government has just launched its microgeneration strategy highlighting how it plans to support more homes, communities and businesses in generating their own energy.
Community Power Empowers draws upon eight common characteristics which exist throughout Europe and are critical success factors to enable the development of a wide and rich mix of successful renewable energy projects. We need to take such factors forward to embed within UK policy and practice:
- Bold vision and leadership
- Meaningful public involvement and engagement
- A focus on education
- Creating a culture for community ownership and co-operatives
- A supportive policy environment
- Appropriate use of resources
- A decentralised energy market
- Facilitating effective partnerships - ‘the typical mix'
Throughout parts of Europe, local authorities play a key role in encouraging renewable energy at the local level. Authorities' multiple roles as decision-makers, planners, managers of government infrastructure and role models for businesses and individuals alike are crucial in the transition to a low carbon society.
Through a series of case studies and project visits, 18 policy recommendations are made including the need for:
- Politicians to venture out of their comfort zone and local authorities to play a much more direct role in enabling community energy projects.
- Debate about future energy supply to move from the realm of experts and engage the public - a well informed public is crucial to community-based energy production and securing the country's long term energy future.
- National policy statements to be urgently addressed by government as they threaten the transition to a low carbon economy by omitting national energy infrastructure (such as the next generation of coal-fired power stations) from carbon budgets.
- A range of incentives for action - awards schemes and competitions, demonstration centres and tax incentives should be developed.
Developing decentralised and community based renewable energy sources will result in a much more secure and self sufficient energy supply. Developing local energy networks offers considerable opportunities for strengthening local economies, skills base and innovation programmes and we need to accelerate the decentralisation of ownership and generation to make this happen. Policy interventions need to be more coordinated and inclusive and provide a more concerted commitment to the benefits of community-based processes.
The report concludes that the UK government, private sector, individual consumers and communities all have a major part to play in the energy revolution and therefore support structures are needed at every level combined with strong local government leadership.