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ResPublica's Recommendations reflected in New Energy Bill

New community rights, including the right to invest in ownership of local electricity distribution grids, incorporated in Energy Generation (Planning and Right to Invest) Bill

The shadow minister for civil society and Chair of the Co-operative Party, Gareth Thomas MP, yesterday introduced a Bill to Parliament that would seek to boost the community energy sector.

The Energy Generation (Planning and Right to Invest) Bill has been introduced "to require new energy generation companies to offer a proportion of shares for purchase by residents in local communities; [and] to provide that residents in local communities have the right to invest in ownership of local electricity distribution grids", amongst other entitlements.

These proposals reflect the recommendations to emerge from ResPublica's recent publication, Re-energising Our Communities: Transforming the market through local energy production, released last month.

ResPublica argues for the right or entitlement for communities to own their local distribution grids and for greater opportunities for communities to co-operatively own a proportion of shares offered by new energy generation companies in their local area.

The paper also proposes the need to introduce hybrid legal models to allow for community-owned and led energy generation to take place in partnership with private companies in order to attract further investment and enable such projects to grow.

Recommendations also include the community 'presumption in favour of use' of local assets, to allow communities to make use of local land, space and roofs for community energy generation to take place.

In introducing the Bill into Parliament, Gareth Thomas MP said, "My Bill seeks to keep within local communities more of the wealth and power that our need for energy creates. The motivation behind the Bill is to make communities more resilient by helping to keep a little more of the wealth from energy generation in local hands."

ResPublica argues further that community energy generation has much more potential to enter the national energy market, and should be taken into consideration by the Department of Energy and Climate Change in its upcoming reforms to the energy market.

Caroline Julian, Senior Researcher at ResPublica and co-author of the paper, said, "Our paper calls on Government, the industry and communities to instead turn to the opportunities that lie on the side of production, rather than giving weight to greater market efficiency and increased competition amongst the larger energy suppliers alone. A ‘responsible capitalism’ may begin to call markets to account, but a truly transformative capitalism will place markets back into the hands of the people."

ResPublica welcomes the Bill, but also proposes a number of additional innovative opportunities that could be harnessed to open up the energy market to communities.

To extend the thesis and recommendations set out in the paper, ResPublica intend to develop a full-length research project that will continue to explore the potential for community energy to become part of national and local markets. As part of the 2012 UN Year of the Co-operatives ResPublica will also be hosting an event on community energy co-operatives later this Spring.

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