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Local communities to control their energy bills

Local communities will be able to take control of their energy bills due to proposals unveiled today in the government’s Community Energy Strategy.

Over 50 per cent of people surveyed by the DECC said that saving money on bills would be the major motivation for getting involved with community energy schemes, and around 3.5m billpayers are ready to get together with other people in their local community to take more control of their energy.

Meanwhile four in ten respondents said they were already interested in joining a community energy group, and taking part in collective switching or collective purchasing schemes.

Under the plans, the government will broaden the support available for community energy projects, whereby people come together to reduce their energy use or purchase and generate their own energy.

Plans include:

  • £10m Urban Community Energy Fund to kick-start community energy generation projects in England;
  • £1m Big Energy Saving Network funding to support the work of volunteers helping vulnerable consumers to reduce their energy;
  • a community energy saving competition, offering £100,000 to communities to develop innovative approaches to saving energy and money; and
  • a “one-stop shop” information resource for people interested in developing community energy projects.

Energy secretary Ed Davey said: “We’re at the turning point in developing true community energy.

“The cost of energy is now a major consideration for household budgets, and I want to encourage groups of people across the country to participate in a community energy movement and take real control of their energy bills.

“Community led action, such as collective switching, gives people the power to bring down bills and encourage competition within the energy market.”

Energy minister Greg Barker said: “The Community Energy Strategy marks a change in the way we approach powering our homes and businesses - bringing communities together and helping them save money – and make money too.

“The coalition is determined to unleash this potential, assist communities to achieve their ambitions and drive forward the decentralised energy revolution. We want to help more consumers of energy to become producers of energy and in doing so help to break the grip of the dominant big energy companies.”

STA head of external affairs Leonie Greene said: “The public are very concerned by the lack of competition in our energy markets and poll after poll shows they back renewable energy.

“So it’s great to see the UK government recognise the vast potential for everyday communities to directly own renewable energy and by doing so, to break open our consolidated electricity sector.

“International experience shows it is bottom-up investment by everyday people and organisations that can really drive renewables. At the same time this gives people real ownership of the energy they depend on, and increases support for local schemes.

“No technology democratises ownership of the power sector better than solar. The UK’s solar power output is already owned by half a million solar households and by new independent companies outside the ‘Big 6’ utilities, as well as a few thousand businesses and communities.

“It is clear that solar is already delivering a revolution in ownership, as well as in clean power generation.

“The further scope for community ownership of solar across the UK is tremendous. However, in practical terms, fulfilling this exciting vision does require Government to ensure the Feed-In Tariff can support the take-off of community-scale schemes”.

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