July 1st, 2024 by James Goudie KC

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero is consulting on barriers to community energy projects in England, being solar panels, wind farms, hydro power, rural heat networks, electric vehicle charging points and car clubs, and fuel poverty alleviation schemes. The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has responded.  Its key messages include:-

  • In general, Government should bring planning laws and guidance in line with Government policy, by making it conditional for energy saving and carbon neutral measures to be included in all relevant planning applications and building control matters;
  • Improvements to the current regime of Government support and investment in electricity transmission infrastructure could be made by facilitating action by communities to undertake small-scale projects themselves;
  • Local Councils should be given a more-specific power to operate community energy projects than the current power in Section 20 of the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006 (the 2006 Act).

What the NALC says in response to the consultation questions includes that lack of funding, lack of technical expertise and a lack of political support from their principal authority are the main barriers (financial and non-financial), preventing the establishment, development and scaling of community energy projects in their areas, and that this reinforces the need for the Government to make it much easier for local Councils to apply for specific funding to deliver community energy projects, to source specific technical guidance for them (and in partnership with other community groups), as well as removing the unsustainable mechanism of local councils having to apply for any such funding at all through their principal authority, and that a lack of access to direct funding to deliver community energy projects for local Councils, and an ongoing need for local Councils to be given a more-specific power to operate community energy projects in their areas, remain the main two barriers.

The 2006 Act makes provision about the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases, the alleviation of fuel poverty, the promotion of microgeneration and the use of heat produced from renewable sources, compliance with building regulations relating to emissions of greenhouse gases and the use of fuel and power, the renewables obligation relating to the generation and supply of electricity and the adjustment of transmission charges for electricity; and for connected purposes.  The principal purpose of the Act is by Section 1(1) to enhance the UK’s contribution to combating climate change. In performing functions under the 2006 Act, the relevant persons and bodies (including any public authority) shall have regard to the principal purpose set out in subsection (1), the desirability of alleviating fuel poverty, and the desirability of securing a diverse and viable long-term energy supply.

Section 20 of the 2006 Act gives parish councils and community councils power to “encourage or promote” local energy saving measures.

The 2006 Act must be considered in conjunction in particular with the Energy Act 2004 and the Climate Change Act 2008.  There is separate legislation in Wales, notably the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and Regulations thereunder.

Comments are closed.