“There can be no more secure a form of energy than that owned and produced by local communities and sold directly to local resident.”
These were the words of Mick Whitley, MP for Birkenhead, at a debate in Parliament on Tuesday last week as he called for the UK’s hugely promising community energy sector to deliver locally generated, clean electricity directly to local households and businesses.
The debate, secured by Mr Whitley, focused MPs on the Government’s much anticipated Energy Security Strategy, following concern over the security of the UK’s energy supply and a tumultuous period of volatile gas prices and high energy bills.
Key to the debate was Mr Whitley’s concern that the Government was not doing enough to enable the community energy sector’s huge potential to underpin a cleaner, more self-sufficient energy future,
“Another issue that the Energy Security Strategy ignores is the enormous potential for community energy to contribute to a more secure and resilient energy supply in the UK. Had the Government backed community energy schemes back in 2014, we could now be producing up to 3 gigawatts in community energy. Instead, there has been almost no growth over the past eight years.”
Mr Whitley concluded with a direct call to Government, “I urge the Minister to take on the proposals of last year’s Local Electricity Bill and to empower community energy schemes to sell their power to local consumers.”
The Local Electricity Bill, a proposed law spearheaded by campaigning group Power for People, would empower community-owned local energy companies to sell locally generated renewable electricity directly to local households and businesses, helping to make new schemes financially viable. The proposed measure has the support of 308 MPs – nearly a majority of the House of Commons – including Mick Whitley who sponsored it.
If implemented by the Government as part of their Energy Security Strategy it could result in direct benefits for communities in Birkenhead and across the UK. Currently customers can only purchase electricity from nationally licensed utilities.
The Bill’s supporters say if they could, the money people use to pay their energy bills could remain in the local economy, resulting in more money for local projects and new jobs created by new community energy businesses.
Power for People’s Director, Steve Shaw, said, “We thank Mick Whitley for triggering this Parliamentary debate on energy security and using it to champion community energy. Local renewable energy must bring community benefit. This approach would increase energy system security and prioritise the wellbeing of local communities simultaneously. Mr Whitley’s ongoing efforts to call for the Government to enable this are very welcome.”
The Energy Security Strategy forms the basis of the Government’s landmark Energy Bill – the first major piece of proposed energy legislation in almost 10 years. Supporters of the Local Electricity Bill say the Government’s Bill does not contain the vital measures needed to secure the huge local benefits that could be enjoyed from increased domestic renewable energy generation. They are calling on the Government to ensure local people can buy their electricity directly from the local renewable energy projects but, so far, the Government have not supported the measure. The campaign continues.