Why the Local Electricity Bill is important and needs your help
Green Christian editor, Clare Redfern, attended the Parliamentary event last month, October 2022
It was encouraging to see parliamentarians from all sides of the House agreeing on something positive, that would be good for communities, for local economies, help to address fuel poverty and benefit the environment.
On 2 November, the Community Energy All-Party Parliamentary Group came together with campaign group, Power for People, at Westminster, to highlight the proposed Local Electricity Bill. Their aim was to motivate campaigners not to give up in securing the support of more MPs to get the Bill passed and become law. I went along to Westminster Hall to find out more.
Green Christian support Power for People’s campaign to enable local renewable energy generators to sell their energy within the local community at cost. Currently this is blocked by unfair regulations and hugely disproportionate costs as it has to be sold to the grid. The Bill would allow electricity generators the right to become local suppliers. There is currently a cross-party group of 311 MPs on board – an encouragingly large number!
But more are needed. So, please visit Power for People’s website to find out whether your MP is still to give their support to the Bill and write to them if they are not already behind it.
On the panel at the event was David Johnston MP (Conservative), Hilary Benn MP (Labour), Wera Hobhouse MP (Lib Dem), Will Handford (National Trust’s Renewable Energy Programme Director), Tom Fyans (CPRE’s Director of Campaigns and Policy) and Steve Shaw (founder of Power for People).
Conservative MP, David Johnston, who is lead sponsor of the Bill explained how selling local renewable electricity to local communities appeals across the political spectrum. Conservatives applaud it as it promotes small enterprises and introduces more competition into the energy market. Hilary Benn, leading sponsor from Labour concurred. “We have to have a plan to decarbonize all aspects of life and a shed-load of more renewable projects are needed”. He pointed out how local energy projects would also enable an effective smart-grid, enabling better storage and release of energy according to demands at different times.
All those on the panel highlighted the potential benefits in creating jobs, in improving energy security, in addressing both fuel poverty and climate change. Yet some resistance remains largely around whether local energy production would increase the problem of renewable energy intermittency – that is how to guarantee supply when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. However, it was pointed out that this is not an insurmountable problem – indeed it is a problem that must be addressed anyway as we develop a smart-grid.
With the necessary incentives and support, the community energy sector could grow by 12-20 times by 2030, powering 2.2 million homes and saving 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year. If achieved, this would take community-owned and run renewable energy generation to 10% of UK electricity generation (around 6,000 megawatts). Community energy has seen minimal growth in recent years, accounting for less than 0.5% of total UK electricity generation capacity and this is largely due to current energy market and licensing rules.
So please check whether your MP is supporting this Bill and if not, ask them why not!
Clare Redfern, Editor Green Christian Magazine