Campaigners seeking to free Britain’s local co-ops to sell low-carbon electricity direct to their communities today vowed to keep up the fight, citing numbers of councils and civil society organisations supporting the proposal.
Chief among demands from the nation’s 424 local co-ops and benefit societies is that the Johnson government enacts a ‘local right to supply’, guaranteeing a close, accessible retail market for crowd-funded power farms.
On Thursday a cross-party group of MPs staged a private members debate in Parliament, calling on the government to lift curbs on the sector. Besides the sales ban, these include compelling co-ops to accept big utilities’ take-it-or-leave-it, volatile prices for spare energy, and to boost meagre funding from a £10 million pot for rural co-ops.
No MP speaking in the debate opposed local sale. More than one pointed out that, at more than 170 pages, D-BEIS’ energy white paper published in November contains only two reference to ‘local energy, and only one to ‘community energy’.
Replying, innovations minister Amanda Solloway said government ‘broadly supported’ calls for a right to local supply, but queried the bill’s detail.
The minister confirmed government had no immediate plans to enact a new law. She held out hope that local energy would receive greater attention in the promised Net Zero strategy, due for release before November’s CoP26 summit.
Today campaign organisers Power for People put numbers to support beyond Westminster for the movement.
Three DNOs backing co-ops’ right to local supply are Western Power Distribution, Electricity North West and SP Energy Networks, together supplying nearly 16.5 million customers .
258 MPs back the initiative. So do 70 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, plus 75 civil society national groupings including WWF, Greenpeace, RSPB and Friends of the Earth.
Waveney’s Conservative MP Peter Aldous said at the debate,
“Local councils, cities, towns and villages want to play their part in the transition to net zero. We need to use all the tools in the box to ensure that we reach our destination on time.
This means removing those regulatory barriers that currently prevent community energy from playing its full role.”
Dr Alan Whitehead, Labour’s shadow energy minister, added: “People ..producing, owning and consuming their own low-carbon energy is, or should be, a prime example of behavioural change in action”.
“We now have in front of us a Bill that really could cut through the problem of how local energy can be produced, generated, transmitted and consumed locally. It should be promoted by the Government, who ought to be putting it forward as their plan for community and local energy.”