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Summary

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, but it has provided a brief overview of its future plans in the Net Zero Strategy.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) conducted an inquiry into community energy earlier this year. The Committee found that though the sector grew from 2014-2017, growth has now stopped, and the UK is falling behind 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 Backbench Business Committee debate on Enabling Community Energy was held on Thursday 1 July 2021, led by Wera Hobhouse MP.

A further debate has been scheduled in Westminster Hall on Tuesday 30 November 2021 at 2.30pm on empowering community energy schemes. Wera Hobhouse MP will open this debate.


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