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Community energy refers to energy projects that are wholly or partially owned and controlled by local communities. The projects can span generation – usually renewable or low carbon – or demand reduction such as energy efficiency.

According to Community Energy England, by 2020 there were 424 community energy organisations across the UK, with 319 MW of total installed capacity. Community energy can offer benefits to local communities as well as to wider decarbonisation goals. For example, Community Energy England state that to date, community projects have saved £2.9 million through reduced energy bills.

The Government has policies to support energy, including at the local level. These include the Smart Export Guarantee, the Renewable Heat Incentive, and the Local Energy Programme. The latter has provided £22 million of funding to date which has included support for the develop of energy strategies for local areas. The Government does not have a current strategy specifically targeted to community energy; in a recent letter to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), the Government said that the Net Zero Strategy, expected later this year, will set out policy on community energy.

The letter was in response to the EAC’s 2021 inquiry into community energy. The Committee found that though the sector grew from 2014-2017, growth has now stopped, and the UK is falling some European countries.

Several suggestions have been made to encourage community energy. The EAC recommended the Government engage the public, provide financial support, and remove regulatory barriers. With regards to regulation, a Local Electricity Bill was introduced in both the 2017-19 and 19-20 Parliamentary Sessions seeking to facilitate community groups who wish to sell the electricity they produce to local customers.

A debate has been scheduled in Westminster Hall on Thursday 1 July 2021 at 1.30pm on enabling community energy. The subject for this debate has been nominated by the Backbench Business Committee and the Members introducing the debate are Wera Hobhouse MP, Ben Lake MP and Peter Aldous MP. The attached briefing paper on Community Energy also includes recent Parliamentary material, news items and further information which may provide useful background for this debate. 

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