In parliament >> Making community energy work

10th February 2014


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  • Local government ,
  • Energy ,
  • Management/saving

Author

Ian Davison

Alan Whitehead praises Decc's community energy strategy, but warns that it will only be as good as what follows

Well done to Decc for publishing its community energy strategy. It’s long overdue. You could, of course, say that the UK has been through an extended period of reduction in community energy. After all, what were the original town gasworks if not a long-lost version of this very concept? Indeed, energy secretary Ed Davey believes we could see a substantial return to a localised energy landscape, with the possibility of schemes involving local communities supplying enough electricity for 1 million homes by 2020.

The strategy also mentions the possible role of communities in the other side of the energy equation – efficiency and demand side reduction – and the role that, local areas can play in developing their own energy-saving programmes.

So there’s much to praise about the new strategy, but I can’t help thinking that for any sort of community energy strategy to work, there needs to be some joined-up policy. One recent example demonstrates the need for such cohesion.

Under the new strategy Decc will have “a programme of engagement with communities and local authorities in the energy companies obligation” (ECO). But wait, haven’t we heard that somewhere before? A number of local authorities have been very engaged in ECO, to the extent that they were doing exactly what the strategy says – getting local partnerships together, securing external funds, building local interest, and easing the path for large schemes of community energy efficiency uplift.

Southampton, for example, was about to agree a programme that would have installed cladding on hundreds of hard-to-treat homes. But then the prime minister “reviewed” ECO and up and down the country schemes are being axed.

The net result is some very bruised local communities and authorities. It’s great to have a strategy, but it will only be as good as what follows from it.


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