|Installation of Brixton Energy’s Elmore House solar project. Photo Credit: Brixton Energy.
By Anders Lorenzen
The UK government have launched a national strategy on community energy, hoping it will see renewable energy projects surge.
Part of Germany’s surge in renewable energy has been led by community energy projects. Over 50% of Germany’s renewable energy capacity is owned by people and groups rather than energy companies.
Several community projects have emerged in the UK, but are still very far off from the dominance seen in Germany and Denmark. Some of the criticism being directed towards community energy in the UK has been the difficulty in establishing projects.
But with this new strategy the government is hopeful this could be about to change. These different kinds of of community energy projects have been identified:
Generating energy (electricity or heat)
Reducing energy use (saving energy through energy efficiency and behaviour change)
Managing energy (balancing supply and demand)
Purchasing energy (collective purchasing or switching to save money on energy)
Crucially, people could be offered ownership in commercial projects being built near them, such as onshore wind projects. By 2015 it should be the norm for communities to be offered some sort of ownership by commercial developers.
This spring a Community Benefits Register for onshore wind power in England will be established; this will help communities when negotiating benefits packages with the developers.
In November, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Cabinet Office launched a £500,000 mentoring scheme in which established energy groups would help new ones wanting to start up, sharing their expertise. The scheme closed in December and the first groups will receive funding early this year.
DECC says they’re working with the EU on including small scale wind and hydroelectricity within the Green Investment Bank’s (GIB) scope of operation. This spring they will also consult on raising the ceiling, from which projects can receive the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) from five to ten megawatts (MW).