We were very happy to see Steve Reed (former leader of Lambeth council and newly elected MP for Croydon North) mentioning Brixton Energy in the House of Commons this week during the debate on the energy bill.
Skip ahead to 18:24 to watch Steve’s speech
Here is the full text of Steve’s speech:
This Bill misses an opportunity to support community energy cooperatives, and worse contains measures that will make them harder to establish.
Brixton Solar Energy 1 was the country’s first urban energy generation cooperative. It was set up by the community in Brixton working in cooperation with Lambeth Council – which I was leading until earlier this month.
Solar power generation is not feasible on the majority of houses because they face the wrong way, suffer from shading from chimneys or other structures, or are too small. Collective schemes like Brixton Solar Energy are far better. To work, they require partnership working. Solar panels are more likely to be financially viable when they are built on social housing blocks, schools or other public buildings, churches or businesses which have larger roof space facing the sun.
Brixton Solar 1 was built on the roof of a social housing block on the Loughborough Park Estate in Brixton. Brixton Solar 2 is being built now on another part of the same housing estate. A third scheme is planned for another estate in the area. The schemes are funded by community subscription and offer a 3% return to investors, most of whom are local. They are also part-resourced by the local authority which makes the buildings available.
These projects tackle fuel poverty by offering lower energy prices to residents who benefit from the feed-in tariff. They reduce carbon emissions by generating energy sustainably, and some of the profits generated are invested in schemes like draught busting, retrofitting buildings, home energy audits and training on energy efficiency. In addition, they build social capital, bring communities together, and keep profits circulating in the local community in a way that does not happen with the big energy companies.
Instead of supporting schemes like this, the Bill offers smaller community generators lower market prices for their power, making them less financially viable and failing to recognise the administration costs needed to run them. It also ends the Renewables Obligation meaning that suppliers have no incentive to purchase from independent generators like Brixton Solar Energy.
The Bill should be amended to increase the fixed feed-in tariff threshold for community projects; guarantee a market for community energy schemes; and set a minimum annual target for new generation capacity from community schemes. I’d also like to see local authorities incentivised to lower overall household carbon emissions in their area which they could do, in part, by supporting projects like Brixton Solar Energy.
The Government should recognise the benefits of cooperative energy generation projects in tackling fuel poverty and promoting sustainability, but instead of acting to help them this Bill will help kill them off.