Community Energy Fortnight is nearly upon us. This is the seventh year that the sector will come together to demonstrate the impact it’s having in the journey to decarbonise the energy system and to celebrate the varied and much needed social benefits we bring to communities across the country.
This year the theme is People Powered Futures, particularly looking at the work community energy groups across the country have been doing to empower future generations through education and working with schools. There is no doubt that now is the time to be harnessing the concerns of young people keen to tackle climate breakdown. There are thousands of young people looking for local action on climate change. If even more of the 700 community energy groups in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland opened their doors and shared information with a school, college or youth group in their area about how their projects work and how to get involved, it would create an inspirational ripple that could travel through generations.
So why People Powered Futures? Because we are striving to put people at the heart of the energy system. We believe passionately that the fight to tackle climate breakdown, now and into the future, needs to happen at a local level, in an inclusive, empowering and democratic manner, but it will need support nationally, (e.g by not increasing tax on renewable energy technologies during a climate emergency!). What better way of demonstrating this vision than by highlighting the work community energy organisations have been doing in schools and communities.
With the current media spotlight on the drastic need to cut carbon emissions, now, more than ever, is the time for us to raise awareness about community energy and encourage more people, particularly young people, to get involved and take action in their local community. Our forthcoming State of the Sector Report demonstrates that 35% of people engaged in the sector are over 60 years old and just 6% under 25 years old. If we can convert the energy and enthusiasm of just some of the school climate strikers now, we can increase the number of engaged young people joining our movement to create a more equal and greener energy system.
You may be thinking, shouldn’t we be focussing on the dwindling political support for community energy? We are also actively lobbying government, looking in detail at the “Smart” Export Guarantee and the changes to VAT on renewable energy technologies, Social Investment Tax Relief and the future for small-scale low carbon generation. We will be launching a campaign to contact your MP about these issues during the fortnight. These policy calls are vital; however many are complex and technical in nature and quite frankly acronym heavy which can make it tricky to generate a single rallying cry for the general public to back. That’s why if we are to engage with people outside of the sector we have to keep demonstrating the social impacts of community energy, just as we are trying to do through the Social Impact Tool we recently launched.
We are also looking beyond government and reaching out to industry, so we set a challenge to energy suppliers to ask what they will do to support Community Energy and to offer suitable tariffs for community energy groups.
We welcome the commitment from Co-op Energy, who are again sponsoring Community Energy Fortnight and who has announced it will offer a route to market for community energy schemes, regardless of their size, and will ensure a market reflective rate for the energy it purchases from them. They are leading the way and demonstrating that responsible businesses don’t need to wait for government to act; instead they are providing measures to allow community energy schemes to access a route to market now, with the knowledge that they will receive a fair price for their energy. We’re actively talking to other suppliers and stakeholders, and hope we’ll be able to share more positive news on this by Community Energy Fortnight.
We’ll be encouraging members and supporters, as part of Community Energy Fortnight, to ask their own energy suppliers to follow the lead of Co-op Energy and show meaningful support for community energy. We often hear warm words from the big suppliers, this is a chance to see them take practical action.
There is a host of ways you can get involved in Community Energy Fortnight. If you are thinking about running an event, we have created an event organisers guide giving you an overview of what to should consider, which links to a suite of more detailed resources to help organise your event. You can add your event to the official list here (you will need to login or register) and tag it with "CEF19".
If you are unable to organise an event you can....