January 2013: Newly elected Labour MP for Croydon North, Steve Reed, made a welcome intervention in the December parliamentary debate on the Energy Bill correctly stating that the Bill “misses an opportunity to support community energy co-operatives”. As an example of what can be achieved by such schemes, Mr Reed gave details of the Brixton Energy project:
“Brixton solar energy 1 was the country’s first urban energy generation co-operative and was set up by the local community in Brixton, working in co-operation with the local authority, Lambeth council…Brixton solar 1 was built on the roof of a social housing estate, Loughborough Park in Brixton. Brixton solar 2 is being built on another part of the same estate and a third scheme is planned for another estate in the area. The schemes are funded by community subscription and offer a 3% return to investors, most of whom are local. They are part-resourced by the local authority, which makes the buildings available.
“Instead of supporting such schemes, the Bill offers smaller community generators lower market prices for their power, making them less financially viable, and it fails to recognise the administration costs needed to run them. The Bill also ends the renewables obligation, which means that suppliers have no incentive to purchase from independent generators such as Brixton solar energy.
Mr Reed should be familiar with the scheme as, until his appointment to Parliament, he was the Leader of Lambeth Council. He goes on to conclude with some really good recommendations:
“The Bill should be amended to increase the fixed feed-in tariff threshold for community projects, guarantee a market for community energy schemes and set a minimum annual target for new generation capacity from community schemes. I should like to see local authorities incentivised to lower overall household carbon emissions in their area, which they could do in part by supporting projects such as Brixton solar energy.”
It should be noted that Scotland has had a target since 2011 of 500 MW community and locally-owned renewable energy by 2020 (see here for details).