Community-owned renewable projects are being blocked by councils, according to a new report from political think tank RePublica.

The report, The Community Renewables Economy: Starting up, scaling up and spinning out, predicts that community energy projects could grow 89 times their current size if prohibitive councils worked to help the industry. Currently, 46% of all energy produced from renewables in Germany comes from community projects. In contrast, just 0.3% of the UK’s renewable generation comes from community-owned renewables.

ResPublica predicts that community energy has the potential to generate up to £30 million in annual tax revenue for local councils but only if councils work harder to promote projects. Although community energy capacity has increased to nearly 60MW over the last 10 years, the sector is still incredibly short of fulfilling its potential. The report notes that, with the right national policy framework in place, community energy could be responsible for almost a fifth of the UK’s total energy capacity – the equivalent of 5.27GW by 2020.

The report identifies joint ownership as the key necessary to unlock scale in the sector. However, in order for communities to partner with private developers a number of barriers need to be addressed. ResPublica notes that funding, financial know-how and legal advice all remain key challenges to communities pursuing these projects.  

Responding to the report the minister for energy and climate change Greg Barker reiterated the government’s commitment to promoting community energy projects. Commenting on the report, he said: “I warmly welcome the ideas in this report on helping communities navigate the planning system, and on forming productive partnerships so that they are better able to take an active role in their own local projects. Our aim is to help communities and local businesses seize this exciting opportunity.”

Maria McCaffery, chief executive of RenewableUK added: “This report highlights the exciting prospect of communities working more closely with local wind farm developers, local businesses and local authorities on jointly-owned projects. Using this socially and economically-inclusive model, we have an opportunity to redefine the relationship between communities and developers to unlock a significant growth in community energy, particularly in onshore wind. This will enable all of us to reap the economic and environmental benefits of wind energy at a truly local level”.