Currently, 99% of the country’s electricity is supplied by just six companies. The Community Energy Coalition, which includes some of the UK's best known and trusted national organisations, including The Co-operative Group, The National Trust, The National Federation of Women’s Institutes and The Church of England, wants to start a revolution with communities at its heart which will drive a clean, affordable and secure energy system. Our headline vision for community energy in 2020 is "communities across the UK owning, generating and saving energy together for the benefit of all".
To find out more about community involvement in energy, leaders from the Coalition set out to Germany in 2011 to see first-hand how communities there have come together to save and generate energy. Germany produces over 20% of its electricity from renewable sources, with communities generating about a quarter of this. In the UK, less than 1% of renewable electricity is generated by communities. The Coalition concluded that they want the UK to dramatically increase this figure by 2020 and set out to distil the benefits and principles for community energy in the vision.
Together, we saw several approaches to community energy in Germany, from Badenova - a large utility - to the pioneering villages of Feldheim and Freiamt. Badenova is run jointly by the city-region of Freiburg, and embraces renewables including turning food waste into heat and power for thousands of local homes. Feldheim is a rural village near Berlin of just 140 inhabitants that has worked with a local commercial renewable energy developer to become completely off-grid and reduce its energy bills by a third, employing around 30 people from the village. Freimt is a rural upland district near Freiburg that generates 40% more energy from renewables than it needs. The wind farms and anearobic digestors are owned and financed by thousands of local members of the cooperative that runs them.
The visits raised important questions about what the right kind of models are for the UK. We later tested these out and drafted the vision for community energy with a wider set of organisations and communities back in the UK, at a workshop in the National Trust’s community-run Sutton House.
This growing coalition is now committed to promote community energy with members and wider stakeholders as a powerful voice.
The vision was launched in February 2012 at a roundtable meeting on delivering community energy with the signatories and the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change at Church House in London.
The signatories continue to work together to make the vision a reality and enable all communities to collectively play a substantial role in creating a secure, clean and affordable energy supply.