Powering Communities with Community Power

The past year has been great for both optimists and pessimists when looking at climate change and community energy.

On one hand we have dire warnings from the IPCC, a Government talking a good game but delivering very little on new renewable generation (whilst supporting fracking) and more recently some very worrying imagery from Greenland. A pessimist’s dream!

However there have been many recent occurrences to make things seem a bit brighter: the massive rise of veganism, extinction rebellion taking direct action to the streets of London, young people spontaneously taking part in the inspiring school strikes, new records of non-coal generation on the grid and more recently the surprising and positive legal commitment from the Government for net zero UK carbon emissions by 2050.

Unfortunately for community energy, there has been more negative stories than positive ones in the past year. The Feed in Tariff has ended with no immediate successor, the Government has consulted on amendments on how the grid is paid for which currently is looking very damaging to distributed energy, there is no Social Investment Tax Relief for those who choose to invest in community energy, and there is no clear route to market for groups hoping to deliver larger-scale onshore wind or solar farms (or both!).

At Co-op Energy we’re constantly looking at how we can help underserved members of society. Community energy resonates so strongly with us because it chimes with many of our co-operative values, which is why since we started as an energy supplier in 2011 we sought to support community energy wherever possible. This has been achieved by us offering to purchase energy from community energy schemes at a fair price and providing a route to market for all community sites regardless of their size. This means we offer the same price to a site which has put solar panels on a roof of a school and is exporting 10 MWh a year as we do to a solar farm which is exporting 4,000 MWh a year. As we are now in a subsidy free world, having a way of ensuring you will get a fair price paid for exported energy is even more important. We now purchase energy from 79 community energy sites throughout Great Britain, including some of the largest community owned sites in the country.

As an energy supplier we are in a unique position to have a relationship with both customers and generators. To that end we’ve evolved our community energy strategy to offer an industry-first domestic energy tariff, Community Power, which is fully backed by the community-owned energy sites that we are purchasing energy from through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). It also contains 25% green gas, and most importantly, whilst we’re offering the tariff we guarantee to pay the community generators more for their energy, by paying over four times the current market rate for the renewable energy certificates they provide as part of the PPA. All of this, and the tariff is currently significantly cheaper than some of the “deep green” competitors.

As community energy enters another tumultuous and challenging year, we hope this tariff will go some way to adding a little more optimism for its future.