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Making a place for independent energy

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Meeting the energy demands of the future is going to require action on a number of fronts. Between the large energy infrastructure projects that seem forever in the news and the behaviour change that needs to happen behind closed doors, there’s a big role for community energy to play.

But there are arguments that more support could be offered to ensure this opportunity is realised. For example, according to Co-operative Energy there is a big opportunity if community renewable energy is included as part of new proposals for social enterprise tax relief. General manager, Ramsay Dunning, says:

 We’re pleased to see that tax relief for social enterprise is firmly on the government’s agenda. We’re urging them to ensure that co-operatives receive tax relief at a generic level...If the government’s forthcoming Community Energy Strategy and Social Enterprise Tax Relief proposals are up to scratch and joined up, we could really see this sector take off.”

Politics is not the only source of excited anticipation for the community energy movement. There are many small firms out there making promising steps to connect the various strands of activity around the country and package it in way that can most benefit the hard-pressed energy consumer.

A real fledgling is Open Utility, which aims to navigate an infrastructure and regulatory maze via some advanced software. The aim is to offer both small generators and consumers the chance to ‘shop around’ for the best deals out there in the independent energy market. This is in its early stages, but it sounds like one to watch for sure.

It’s not just about community groups and local businesses cranking up the entrepreneurial gears – there’s a significant role for local authority innovation in generating electricity and heat too.

On the latter, DECC has just launched a new £6million funding programme for local authorities to establish and build on local heating and cooling networks. Delivering area-based heat from renewable or recovered sources such as waste treatment or industry is the focus – and this is phenomenon that is proving increasingly popular for heating in an area where the buildings comprise of mixed residential, businesses and schools. We have previously looked at some examples of energy networks in Southampton, Leicester and Hackney.

Six bidding rounds will see the most practical commercial propositions receive funding support – and those that just fall short of the required standard will be offered expert advice to maximise the quality of future proposals. It’s always best to learn from a setback.

Whether you belong to a residents association, you're a local business star or work for a council, we’ve got online and offline support for those serious about getting started or building on initial local energy progress.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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