MPs from all parties have debated new rules to enable clean community energy generation and called upon the government to enact a ‘Right to Local Supply’, so that households and businesses can become customers of local renewable energy companies.
The measures proposed would improve competition, create skilled jobs and reduce customers’ utility bills, while helping to accelerate the construction of new clean energy infrastructure.
Under the proposal, known as the Local Electricity Bill, a new ‘Right to Local Supply’ of energy would empower community owned energy companies to sell locally generated electricity directly to local households and businesses.
Currently customers can only purchase electricity from nationally licensed utilities.
A cross-party group of 258 MPs backs the initiative. 70 local authorities across England, Scotland and Wales also support it together with 75 national organisations, including Community Energy England, Community Energy Wales, Community Energy Scotland, WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB.
Conservative MP Peter Aldous said at the debate, “It is abundantly clear that 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 and, hopefully, after a smooth ride. This means removing those regulatory barriers that currently prevent community energy from playing its full role.”
Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister, Dr Alan Whitehead MP, added, “An arrangement whereby people are producing, owning and consuming their own low-carbon energy is, or should be, a prime example of that behavioural change in action as far as our climate change targets are concerned.
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.”
The Liberal Democrat Climate Spokesperson, Wera Hobhouse MP, said at the debate, “Our outdated energy market rules mean that community energy groups must sell their power to large utilities, which sell it on to customers. That makes it impossible for community energy to scale up. The solution is a right to local supply that enables community energy schemes to sell their power directly to local customers. That would make it viable to expand existing schemes and to construct many new ones. The Local Electricity Bill would do that. Think of it—a surge in clean energy and a surge in public buy-in for climate solutions, because people would see the local economic benefits happening in their own communities.”
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Energy Spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, said, “The existing community energy groups operating across these islands reduced energy bills by £2.9 million last year and created £3.1 million-worth of community benefit expenditure. We should just imagine what those figures could be if community energy was fully enabled and grew from its current 319 MW to more than 3,000 MW. This measure is not just about addressing the climate crisis, as important as that is. It is also about supporting more local skilled jobs, and it is about cheaper energy bills. It is very much a win-win-win. While we welcome the Government’s support of the principle, we believe that, if we work together with the Minister and the Department, we can get the detail right and enact a local electricity Bill that enshrines the right to local supply.”
Power for People’s Director, Steve Shaw, said, “We congratulate MPs Wera Hobhouse, Ben Lake and Peter Aldous for securing this very well attended Parliamentary debate. The Local Electricity Bill, if made law, would unlock the huge potential for community-owned clean energy infrastructure and for this to boost local skilled jobs and economic activity in communities everywhere. We call on the government to support it.”
Responding on behalf of the government, the Minister for Innovation, Amanda Solloway MP, said of the Bill that the government, “agreed with its the broad intentions”, but not the detail. The campaign continues.