The Secretary for Energy and Climate Change and Liberal Democrat MP, Ed Davey says he expects to respond to recommendations for the Community Energy Strategy “this Autumn”.
The Strategy was launched 27 January to help communities build low carbon and renewable energy projects.
Talking at the ‘Powering Up! Scaling up community energy together’ conference in Oxford yesterday, Davey said he met the chairs of the Community Energy Working Groups early this week.
Davey says he has “received the report and recommendations, and will be working through them over the next few months. I expect to formally respond to the recommendations from those working group in the Autumn.”
Davey stressed that actions would still be taken before a formal response, and government is already “trying to find immediate actions that can begin to help.”
However Davey also jostled that attendees “might have noticed not every single Westminster politician is standing up supporting the growth of renewable electricity generation with us, so I have said to my department, we have to ensure that we are building a political movement that is going to support the changes that we know we can tackle.”
However last August, Liberal Democrat Taunton Deane MP, Jeremy Browne called the development of solar farms in his constituency a “monstrous desecration of our natural environment”.
Davey also called out vested interests: “There are plenty of invested interests out there that don’t want this to happen believe me.”
“That is the importance of your movement and the importance of getting your community and shared energy, so that we have more people with a stake in a way that we can have a clean energy future” said Davey.
“To turn that vested interest into the renewable, clean energy sector.”
The strategy aims for community projects to supply electricity for up to 1 million homes by 2020 to reduce energy bills and fuel poverty.
The key aim of the Strategy is to gain greater community involvement and ownership of local commercial renewable energy projects.
“It will give communities the opportunity to have a real stake and sense of ownership” said Davey, and will “galvanise support for renewables across the country”.
Davey also announced that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) are about to appoint a fund administrator for its £10 million Urban Community Energy Fund. “It will be up and running in the coming months” said Davey.
Davey also told the conference that DECC is working with the Treasury and the FCA to create optimal tax and finance opportunities for community energy.
The strategy needs to ensure that the “planning process supports communities” and to make access to finance “as easy as possible” said Davey.
The focus of the strategy, said Davey is to create “a bottom up low carbon economy that saves energy, and generates energy in new ways – so we can cut the emissions that are harming our planet”.
The new strategy will see the creation of a £10 million Urban Community Energy Fund to complement the existing £15 million Rural Community Energy Fund as well as the formation of a dedicated Community Energy Unit within the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). In addition, the government is quadrupling the Green Deal Communities Scheme to £80 million.
Under the new plans, community groups are able to apply for up to £20,000 to undertake feasibility work and apply for loans of up to £130,000 to help complete projects.
Last week, renewable energy was raised as a major talking point in the run up to the UK's 2015 national election.
As the UK’s leading environmental groups teamed up to challenge political parties to prioritise the environment for the election, the Liberal Democrats party released five “green laws” to be included in its 2015 manifesto.
Talking on the “green laws”, Davey said the “green agenda” has been one of the “biggest areas of tension” in the current Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government, but the party is to make the environment a top priority, protecting the environment is a “central and political and moral challenge” said Davey.