Support local action now to build a cleaner energy future

We need governments to support community efforts to create cleaner energy, not create barriers

Community groups around the world are taking action on climate change and driving initiatives towards cleaner and more affordable energy.

Take the inspiring example of Brighton, which is host to the UK’s first community funded, zero emissions, solar-powered bus. The bus used to run on regular diesel, but has since been converted to a 133 kWh electric vehicle by Magtec in Sheffield. It is powered by a 21kW solar array on the roof of the bus depot, installed by Brighton Energy Coop and part-funded by Viper IT SolutionsInfinity Foods and Buddies Cafe as part of an M&S Energy crowdfunding campaign last year.

Elsewhere in the UK, the company Pixie Energy has just launched an East Anglian Energy Market Innovation Project. The project wants to identify new local models for the energy industry and drive a power revolution in the region.

But once again, local efforts are facing unnecessary odds. The government has already taken a backward step by making cuts to Feed-in Tariff (FIT) subsidies, putting community energy projects across the country at risk and preventing others from launching. .

Now, the energy regulator, Ofgem, has added to local generators’ troubles. Last month, it cut some of the financial support that local energy generators rely upon to produce power close to those who use it, which helps to save costs across the national network.

Ofgem says that the level of payment given to local generators is distorting the market and if no action is taken the distortion will increase. But, being local rewards, these incentives were not open to owners of big central power stations, such as the Big Six, who currently dominate the market. In fact, they are so powerful that Ofgem itself states that its decision was driven by an industry proposal.

Local energy generators help incentivise the transition to local, clean, smart energy systems, effectively disrupting the current model that gives the Big Six so much control over our energy. So Ofgem’s decision is a slap in the face to those who are working tirelessly to create a future powered by cleaner, more sustainable and affordable energy.

Climate change is a big challenge and it requires us all to act. A big part of this challenge is transforming our energy system.

All around the world, local people are working to take control of their energy future. In the US, New Orleans is the most recent of a series of cities not waiting for Donald Trump to recant his climate scepticism. Earlier this month, the mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, announced a new Climate Action Strategy for one of the country’s cities most likely to feel the full force of climate change. New Orleans’ residents are also some of the most affected by the burden of energy costs, with energy bills absorbing up to 20% of the average low-income household’s monthly earnings. At the heart of the mayor’s new strategy are energy efficiency measures and renewable energy.

With the growing number of bold, positive steps already being taken around the world, what we really need now is for governments and investors to support us in scaling these efforts up, and not going against communities’ efforts.

To challenge Ofgem’s decision, we have joined 10:10 in inviting the public to stand up for local, clean energy – and to push back against this backwards step. You can support it here.

If you value great public services, protecting the planet and reducing inequality, please support NEF today.

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