Community renewable energy projects in UK
There are now 43 communities [across UK] who are in the process of or already producing renewable energy through co-operative structures. They are set up and run by everyday people – local residents mostly – who are investing their time and money and together installing solar panels, large wind turbines or hydro-electric power for their local communities.
The communities taking renewable energy into their own hands, Ecologist, Ed Mayo, 5th January, 2012 A new report by Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Group examines those investing time and money in installing solar panels, wind turbines or hydro-electric power for their local communities
Late last year we – Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Group – published a new report which reveals the growing number of people who are choosing to start renewable energy co-operatives in their communities, against all the odds.
What is exciting about the report is that it is the first and most comprehensive guide to what amounts to a new movement of communities who are taking action for greener energy into their own hands.
In a time of doom – when all talk is of cuts, unemployment and rising
prices – this report highlights a different story. Despite, or maybe
even because, of the wider economic woes, people across the UK are
creating a co-operative movement for green energy. There are now 43
communities who are in the process of or already producing renewable
energy through co-operative structures. They are set up and run by
everyday people – local residents mostly – who are investing their
time and money and together installing solar panels, large wind
turbines or hydro-electric power for their local communities.
The report highlights a series of examples. Like Ouse Valley Energy
Service Company, which is owned by 250 people who have installed solar
panels on a local brewery. Or River Bain Hydro, which installed a
hydro electric power generator in its local river with investment of
£200,000 from around 200 people.
The report also shows that together across the UK local residents have
invested over £16 million in these co-operatives. These range from
over £4 million which has been invested by over 2,700 people in
Westmill Wind Farm in Oxfordshire, right through to around £38,000
which has been invested by around 34 local residents to install solar
panels on a local primary school in Nayland, Suffolk.
Overall, Co-operative renewable energy in the UK is a testimony to the
fact that green economy co-operatives are the fastest growing part of
the UK co-operative sector, having grown by an astonishing 24 per cent
since 2008. What amazes me about this growing movement is that it is
emerging against all the odds. This government’s rhetoric about
supporting community owned renewable energy has not yet been backed up
by an integrated plan to make it a reality. As many of the people in
renewables co-operatives in the report say, there’s a lot stacked
against communities on this – changing legislation and red tape, not
to mention hard economic times.
For a start, government legislation keeps shifting, and there’s no
better example of this than the government’s recent slashing of the
solar Feed in Tariff. Whilst we recognise that the solar tariff was
generous, the early and dramatic nature of the cut means several
energy co-operatives have been put on hold.
Like many, Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Group are campaigning
on this in the hope that government will introduce the planned premium
community tariff that encourages communities to create green energy
together. But the fact that it was cut at such short notice has been a
serious set back for many co-operatives.
Planning hurdles and bureaucracy are also a major problem for small
community renewable schemes. With complex planning regulations and a
wide range of organisations to deal with – the Environment Agency,
Distribution Network Operators, local authorities, funders and so on –
it is hard for small community renewable schemes, often set up and run
by local volunteers, to get things set up….
With a financial crisis, cuts and difficult environment, perhaps we
shouldn’t be surprised that people across the UK are coming together
to create green energy themselves. The co-operative sector, which has
always been there to support people trying to make a difference, is
doing all it can to help – whether through schemes to support
community shares or through The Co-operative Bank’s commitment to
invest £1 billion in renewable energy by 2013, and its broader support
for new co-operative enterprises.
As we all know now, we have built an economy based on a financial
house of cards of banks, bonds and bail-outs. When you strip away the
hype and hope, the only feasible alternative strategy is one that is
based on bootstrap development of local enterprises such as these,
making use of the three unlimited sources of wealth we have – people,
ingenuity and renewable energy. http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/other_comments/1192092/the_communities_taking_renewable_energy_into_their_own_hands.html
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