New inquiry examines the role of community energy in net zero

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The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) will be examining what role community energy could be playing in decarbonising energy and heat in a new investigation.

Community energy projects involve groups of people coming together to purchase, manage, generate or reduce consumption of energy.

Since most community energy projects focus on renewable power and/or energy efficiency, they could play a vital role in the decarbonisation of energy and heat.

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Philip Dunne MP, commented: “As part of our inquiry into Technological Innovation and Climate Change, we are considering a variety of innovations that could play a role in net zero Britain.

“As most community energy projects now focus on renewable power or energy efficiency, we will be looking at how the technology used in these projects can decarbonise heat and energy supply.

“I invite anyone with knowledge of community energy initiatives to share that knowledge with the Committee by making a written submission.”

The Environmental Audit Committee is conducting an overarching inquiry looking at technological innovations which could contribute to tackling climate change.

Each part of the inquiry looks at a specific technology or strategy currently in use or in development and considers its potential and how Government policy can facilitate the UK making the best and most cost-effective use of that technology.

As of 2020, community energy contributed 278MW of renewable energy and heat to the energy system.

It has been estimated that by 2030, the community energy sector could power 2.2 million homes, saving 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.

For community energy schemes to be successful, projects will require appropriate funding and policy support, says the Committee.

Until 2017, there was a steady growth of the UK’s community energy sector, largely driven by the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme that provided payment to individuals for their own energy generation. The scheme closed to new applications in 2019.

In 2020, the Government introduced the Smart Export Guarantee as a new initiative.

Unlike the FiT scheme, the Smart Export Guarantee pays for excess energy put into the grid rather than energy produced.

The EAC will be considering these issues in greater depth and will invite written submissions before holding a one-off evidence session.

Written evidence is welcomed as part of this inquiry until Friday 19th of March.

This session considers the role of community energy projects (schemes that are wholly owned and/or controlled by communities or through partnership with commercial or public sector partners) in the UK’s energy sector.

This inquiry is viewed as an opportunity to highlight UK-based examples of innovation and excellence, and the Committee is particularly keen to hear from those at the cutting edge of each sector.

More information about this inquiry and how to take part is available on the EAC website.