The House of Lords will this week debate a proposal to allow local generators including community energy co-ops to retail clean power direct to their catchment areas.
Amendments tabled by Green peer Natalie Bennett and others seek to alter the government’s energy bill, so that direct sales can be made, and co-ops can be rewarded with a guaranteed wholesale price.
The second right, say campaigners, is critical to the stability of the co-ops’ business model.
The right of local supply is a long-standing demand of Britain’s 420 or so plus volunteer-led wind and solar co-operatives. It is a mainstay of co-ops in Germany, Europe’s most successful deployer of citizen-controlled renewables.
Advocates Power for People say they have secured support of 311 MPs for the principles, nearly half the Commons’ membership.
Western Power Distribution, UK Power Networks, SP Energy Networks and Electricity North West are among DNOs who say local supply can be made to work.
Over 100 local councils endorse the principle, as do many campaign groups and charities.
Amendments 237 and 238 at the Lords’ committee stage of the energy bill take two key elements – a Community Electricity Export Guarantee and a Community Electricity Supplier Services Scheme – from the Local Electricity Bill championed by Power for People.
If accepted, the second amendment will oblige licenced commercial retailers with more than 150,000 national clients to offer a community scheme enabling direct sales from any registered community-owned generator
Though ministers have in the past offered to engage with campaigners to consider rights of local supply, it is expected that this week’s attempt will be no more successful than attempts in July 2021, when the Commons last debated the issue.
During the last debate among MPs, innovations minister Amanda Solloway could only offer hope local energy would receive attention in the promised Net Zero strategy, due for release before November’s CoP26 summit. Those hopes were dashed.
Bennett , a former leader of the Green Party, will be supported in the upper house by independent peers Lady Young of Old Scone, Lord Teverson and Baroness Rosie Boycott.
Backing for this week’s proposal comes from the Nuclear-Free Local Authorities group. Its chair Greater Manchester councillor Lawrence O’Neill has written to energy minister Lord Callanan, urging the government to adopt the two amendments.
“In the drive to achieve net zero in the UK, community renewable energy projects can play an important role”, Councillor O’Neill tells the minister.
“They are incredibly empowering for those citizens and communities which participate in, and benefit from, them, and they are a means to leverage private capital for investment
“The bill drafted by the Power for People campaign would create a fairer marketplace in which small community power projects will be able to supply the electricity that they generate to local customers. The bill has the backing so far of 311 MPs from all parties, including many of your Conservative Party colleagues” the councillor adds.