The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) are appealing to the Business Secretary to create a new National Community Energy Fund to support community-owned energy businesses.
In his letter to Kwasi Kwarteng MP, NFLA Steering Committee Chair, Councillor David Blackburn, cites the ‘inexplicable’ closure of the Rural Community Energy Fund this month as a retrograde step when the £10 million fund has been instrumental in attracting hundreds of millions of pounds of public investment in community energy projects.
Instead Cllr Blackburn has asked the Secretary of State to transform the Fund into a National Community Energy Fund with more money to make it a ‘significant vehicle in driving forward public investment in green technologies to deliver the renewable energy and energy efficiency that we need if Britain is truly to become Net Zero by 2050’.
The NFLA is opposed to new civil nuclear power projects and instead wants to see public money diverted into supporting the development of renewables, energy storage systems and energy efficiency measures, such as the retrofitting of insulation to Britain’s homes as a new national priority. Many of these activities are being delivered by community-owned cooperative enterprises, which the NFLA wants to see support to ensure they thrive.
Cllr Blackburn said:
“Community energy involves people and communities in creating climate solutions to support our net zero transition, whilst maximising the social benefit from it. Many thousands of British people have already creditably invested and become involved in energy co-operatives.
“The government has recognised the valuable role that community and locally owned renewable energy projects can play in reaching our net zero targets. The NFLA wants the government to put its money where its mouth is by backing these projects with a new national fund which can supply ‘at risk’ seed corn funding to develop innovative proposals to the point where they can attract investment from the public.”
Notes to Editors
For more information please contact: Richard Outram, Secretary, NFLA email Richard.email@example.com / mobile 07583 097793
The letter to the Business Secretary follows.
Councillor David Blackburn,
Chair, Nuclear Free Local Authorities,
C/o NFLA Secretariat,
Level 3, Town Hall Extension, Manchester, M60 3NY
14 March 2022
The Rt. Hon. Kwasi Kwarteng MP
Business Secretary of State,
The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Dear Secretary of State,
I am writing to you as Chair of the Nuclear Free Local Authorities in support of the call by Community Energy England to extend and expand the Rural Community Energy Fund into a new National Community Energy Fund to include urban, heat and retrofit projects.
Whilst community energy is mentioned in the Government’s Net Zero Strategy, it is disappointing that the strategy does not “emphasise the importance of community energy” to achieving net zero or propose “practical support measures to harness the potential of community energy” as recommended by the Environmental Audit Committee.
Community energy involves people and communities in creating climate solutions to support our net zero transition, whilst maximising the social benefit from it. The government has already recognised ‘the valuable role that community and locally owned renewable energy projects can play in reaching our net zero targets. Community energy groups can act as catalysts for raising awareness and promoting behaviour change, both of which are vital if we are to achieve our 2050 goals.’
It is to their great credit that a significant number of Britons have invested and / or otherwise participated in renewable energy or energy efficiency projects. The £10m Rural Community Energy Fund has clearly been successful in mobilising hundreds of millions of pounds of investment in community energy projects from citizens who share the stated desire of government ministers to expand renewables to address the energy crisis and climate change. It is therefore inexplicable that the government has no plans to extend RCEF beyond March 2022 or expand it to include urban, heat or retrofit projects, areas that urgently need local activity.
It is insufficient to simply point community energy groups towards ‘national growth funds’, such as the Levelling Up Fund, Shared Prosperity Fund and the Energy Redress Fund. These funds are often not appropriate or difficult to access to communities trying to access small amounts of ‘at risk’ funding to develop projects that deliver renewable energy or promote energy efficiency to a point where they can attract funding from the public. Without this seed-corn money, huge amounts of investment capital from local people will go untapped.
Our fear is that without the continuation of the RCEF and its expansion into a more comprehensive National Community Energy Fund that the warning issued by the Climate Change Committee that “if the people of the UK are not engaged in this challenge – the UK will not deliver Net Zero by 2050…” will come to pass.
Secretary of State, please can I ask you to retain the Rural Community Energy Fund and make it a National Community Energy Fund, with sufficient departmental funds to make it a significant vehicle in driving forward public investment in green technologies to deliver the renewable energy and energy efficiency that we need if Britain is truly to become Net Zero by 2050?
Thank you for taking time to read this letter and consider my request. I look forward to your reply. Please direct any response to this correspondence via the NFLA Secretary, Mr Richard Outram, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor David Blackburn,
Chair, Nuclear Free Local Authorities