Community energy: co-operative, citizen-centred, decentralised

.

Although a couple of weeks ago the government agreed to ban all fracking in protected areas, they are now reported as saying this may ‘unduly constrain the industry’ and fracking will be allowed to take place under National Parks and other protected areas if the wells start outside their boundaries. The passing of the government’s bill was welcomed by Ken Cronin, the chief executive of trade body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas. MP Caroline Lucas, on the other hand, said:What a mockery this is making of legitimate public concerns on fracking, and indeed of the democratic process.”

On 27th January, the government’s Community Energy Strategy report praised the way “communities are coming together to take more control of the energy they use”.

balcombe residents

There are a growing number of community energy organisations in the UK, giving communities more control over production and provision and opportunities to alleviate fuel poverty and increase local employment.

Co-operatives UK, Community Energy England, The Co-operative Energy, Social Enterprise UK, 10:10 and Regen SW have united to call for fair treatment for energy co-ops: a sensible approach to share capital and an optional asset lock for co-ops. They have produced a briefing setting out the main actions required to get community energy back on track. Click here to read the briefing in full.

repower balcombe header

REPOWERBalcombe is the latest initiative: a pro-community and pro-renewables co-operative social enterprise run for the good of the local community. Recognising that Cuadrilla’s drilling back in 2013 divided opinion in the community, they aspire to move on and unite around something positive – clean energy.

In 2015 they aim to raise funds for around 300kw of solar PV, the equivalent of 10% of Balcombe’s current electricity usage – or enough to power 60 of the village’s 760 homes. REPOWERBalcombe will sell investment in the form of shares to the community.

grange farm balcombe solar69 panels were installed on Grange Farm at the end of January

Their first site to sign up was the third-generation family-run Grange Farm on Crawley Down, who will host 18kW of solar panels on their cowshed in exchange for 33% discounted energy for the next 25 years. Local co-op members provided £27,300 for these panels. They are now raising funds to install solar panels on the rooftops of three schools.

As the briefing says:

“The UK needs to move from an economy based on fossil fuels, towards one based on renewable energy; from a market dominated by a handful of suppliers, to one where thousands of communities meet their energy needs locally.

“We need an approach to ownership and innovation that is more co-operative, citizen-centred and decentralised. One that enables people to work together to generate, distribute and supply their own sustainable energy. One that taps the emergence of new crowdfunding mechanisms that have the ability to leverage large sums of money into clean energy investment, and at the same time bolster energy-democracy and the social economy.”

Models for doing this already exist across Europe, where co-operatives and social enterprises deliver clean, low-carbon energy, offer local employment opportunities, community development funds and fuel poverty alleviation.

Useful links:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/shale-gas

http://www.thenews.coop/93323/news/co-operatives/getting-the-uks-community-energy-sector-back-on-track/

http://www.repowerbalcombe.com/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-31027128

http://www.energyshare.com/pages/8304/

George Morran: Why Regional Government?

 

George Morran, LWM’s vice-chairman, writes:

George Morran -1Devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has brought greater proximity and therefore ownership of decision-making to those communities.

Increasingly different approaches to public policy have developed, reflecting local circumstances and aspirations, rather than Westminster and Whitehall’s one approach fits all – in particular the interests of those in London and the south east.

In Europe a federal system of government has underpinned economic and political vitality for decades as it has in North America and elsewhere.

There is widespread agreement that economic and political decision-making is far too centralised and incapable of leading and supporting moves to more localised and sustainable economies.

Reform is urgently needed, but the power brokers at Westminster, Whitehall and our existing large Local Authorities are tied into defending their positions and resisting change. That is why we need community action.

 

Regional Government for England has to be part of wider constitutional reform:

 

  • the downsizing and refocusing of Westminster and Whitehall;
  • the establishment of an inclusive sub national government in England based on democratic local community and regional government,
  • working as an equal partner with a reformed Westminster and Whitehall and existing devolved administrations elsewhere in the UK

 

George Morran has had extensive experience in local and regional affairs, being Director of the West Midlands Regional Forum of Local Authorities (1991-98), Assistant Chief Executive Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and currently consultant specialising in regional governance, Vice-chair of Localise West Midlands, research associate at Aston University’s Business School and project director of the West Midlands Constitutional Convention 

*

forum of regions 13 header

 

June 6th, 2013, news of the  Second Forum of Regions, Lyon, Rhône Alpes, France:

REGIONS: ACTORS FOR CHANGE:

The Organization of Regions United FOGAR (ORU – FOGAR) and UCLG, The Global Network of Cities, Local and Regional Governments in conjunction with the Rhône Alpes, invited regional representatives of the world to gather in Lyon. The Forum’s theme was: “Regions – actors for change; a recognition of the richness of diversity for an economic and innovative development”.

It highlighted the importance of regional governments in raising the voice of the people through the exchange of experiences on the role of regions in a sustainable development perspective.