The case for community renewables

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has announced it intends to abolish subsidies for new household and community scale renewable electricity technologies. In this blog, Community Business Panel member Afsheen Kabir Rashid, MBE, Co-founder, Director of Repowering London and Chair, Brixton Energy, sets out the case for community renewable energy.

It has been a long and very hot summer, but one that has rewritten the rulebook on the potential for solar energy. On June 30th, solar energy briefly became the UK’s number one power source, overtaking gas for the first time. Which makes it all the more disappointing that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has announced it will no longer provide any subsidies for new household and community-scale renewable electricity technologies from April 2019. This is not only a blow to consumers and industry, but communities up and down the country acting to tackle climate change and harness, in the government’s own words, “one of the greatest industrial opportunities of our time”.

My organisation, Repowering London, creates clean local energy, promotes energy efficiency and addresses fuel poverty. We also create jobs, training and development for people in the communities they serve. What’s more, profits stay tied to the local area, providing inward investment and creating  local economic resilience.

Power to Change is backing community energy as one of its priority community business sectors and is taking the bold step of aligning its endowment and grant-making activities to maximise its impact. They launched the £40m Community Owned Renewable Energy (CORE Partners) fund with Big Society Capital in 2017 and their Next Generation Community Energy Programme will be launched later this year. The aim is to put up to eight solar farms into community hands, enabling the profits to be put to use for the benefit of local people. Funding and support will also be made available to the sector to develop new and innovative projects and business models, helping community businesses to become strong, viable players in a rapidly changing energy market.

It is not only Power to Change that believes in the potential of community energy. Last week National Grid published its latest Future Energy Scenarios, including Community Renewables as one of only two energy transition scenarios that meet the UK’s 2050 carbon targets.  Just this week, the government announced the first ever Green GB Week in October 2018, which will include a focus on climate action in communities. It is critical that the same government finds the courage to continue offering the real, tangible, practical support that has helped this vital community business sector flourish so far.