Urban communities will be offered cash to create renewable energy and take control of their energy bills, according to a new government strategy unveiled today.
Energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey announced the new scheme, which will offer grants and loans to communities to build sustainable energy options such as solar panels or wind turbines, or to take part in collective switching of energy suppliers. If you want to take action on your home now, take a look at our comprehensive guide on how to buy solar panels.
Which? energy expert Sylvia Baron said: ‘This scheme could help drive down energy bills, which we know are a major strain on household budgets. For homes that can’t install renewable technologies on their own, for example if you have a north-facing roof and your house can’t get solar panels, joining with the local community could be a great solution’.
What can I get?
If you are part of an urban community you could benefit from up to £150,000 by working with people in your local area to create your own renewable energy through solar panels or wind turbines. Under the government’s plans, communities could also be in the running for a £100,000 prize in a energy saving competition for innovative approaches to saving energy and money.
It’s not yet clear how communities can apply for these grants and loans, but we’ll update this page when we know more.
Around 5,000 community groups have participated in energy saving projects in the UK since 2008. Households in Cheshire that were part of the Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral project saved up to £300 per year by installing energy efficiency measures. And other successful projects like Brixton Energy Solar have involved local residents building solar panels on the roofs of council blocks. The profit made from generating electricity was fed back into the community.
What can I spend it on?
Grants and loans will be available for building renewable energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines, or to help communities take part in collective switching of energy suppliers (moving energy suppliers as a group to secure a better deal).
Families that are part of projects like the one in Cheshire, installing energy efficiency measures, could also see money dropping from their household bills.
In a survey for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, more than 50% of people said that saving money on bills would be the major motivation for getting involved with community energy schemes. Four in 10 surveyed said they were already interested in joining a community energy group and taking part in collective switching.
This £10m Urban Community Energy Fund matches an already existing pot for rural communities. Money is offered at the planning stages with groups invited to apply for grant up to £20,000 for work to see what is feasible in their area. Loans of up to £130,00 will be available to support the full projects, including planning applications.
What’s the best energy deal at the moment?
The proposals under this Community Energy Strategy are designed to help communities take control of their energy including through collective switching.
Our research has shown smaller energy companies can offer cheaper tariffs than the major suppliers. For more a more in-depth comparison, take a look at our guide to the best and worst energy companies.