The National Trust, along with a coalition of civil society leaders from UK organisations with over twelve million members, has called for community energy to play a substantial role in meeting the country’s climate change targets.
Leading figures from The Co-operative; the National Trust; The National Federation of Women’s Institutes; the Church of England and Campaign to Protect Rural England will today meet Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, to launch their joint ‘vision for community energy’, which supports dramatically scaling up the number of community owned renewable energy projects across the country, and to discuss how the Government can best assist.
The National Trust has been working on its low carbon villages (LCV) project which aims to tackle the disillusionment and helplessness that many people feel about climate change in two Trust owned villages, Coleshill in Oxfordshire, and Cambo on the Trust’s estate at Wallington, Northumberland. Through a process of engagement over a three-year period, LCV aimed to develop positive and practical solutions that could set villagers on a journey to low-carbon living. The energy projects the charity has undertaken across all of its places as part of its commitment to generating half of the UK’s energy from renewable energy sources by 2020 can be seen on the National Trust energy map, found on the charity’s site.
Patrick Begg, Director of Rural Enterprise at The National Trust, commented: “Many other European countries are way ahead of the UK, as we found out when visiting German communities last year. Germany produces over 20 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, with communities generating about a quarter of this. In the UK, less than 1 per cent is generated by our communities, a figure this coalition wants to dramatically increase by 2020. We are asking the Government to support us in this.”
At the same time, local energy schemes will receive another boost today as The Co-operative launches its Community Energy Challenge, a competition which will result in six communities across the UK receiving support to set up their own energy projects. The Co-operative is setting aside £1 million in 2012 to support community energy. This will involve everything from mentoring for start-ups through to the underwriting of co-operative share offers in local co-operatives.
Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals at The Co-operative, said: “We want nothing less than a clean energy revolution, with communities controlling and benefiting from their own renewable energy. Talk of a new dash for gas shales, which could see up to 3,000 wells installed across the UK, highlights the choices we face – more and dirtier sources of fossil fuels or clean energy owned and controlled by communities.”
In the coming months and years, the coalition, who were brought together by The Co-operative and its partners, sustainable development organisations Forum for the Future and Carbon Leapfrog, collectively plan to meet at regular intervals to make practical steps to drive the shared vision forwards and champion community energy among their members. Late last year coalition representatives visited Germany to see examples of other successful community schemes.