A coalition of civil society leaders from UK organisations with more than 12 million members has called on community energy to play a substantial role in meeting Britain''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 the Campaign to Protect Rural England met the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change last week, to launch their joint 'vision for community energy'.
The coalition supports dramatically scaling up the number of community owned renewable energy projects across the country, and discussed with Government officials including the Secretary of State, now Mr Ed Davey, how they can best assist.
"The Church of England has a presence in every community with 16,000 churches nationwide and is engaging with environmental issues through its Shrinking the Footprint campaign. We fully support community energy projects as a way of working together to provide a clean, secure energy supply and to help heat and electricity become more sustainable for all," said David Shreeve, the Church of England's adviser in the area.
At the same time, the Co-operative launched 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, declared: "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."
Patrick Begg, Director of Rural Enterprise at the National Trust, added: "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. Today we are asking the Government to support us in this."
Ruth Bond, Chair of the National Federation of Women's Institutes, said: "The WI has been active on renewable energy since the 1970s. We see community energy as people working together, not having schemes imposed on them. This is a great opportunity for our 7,000 WIs across the UK to tackle climate change and leave a legacy for the next generation."