As we enter the “decisive decade” for battling climate change, Grant Peisley from Community Energy Wales, Datblygiadau Egni Gwledig (DEG) and YnNi Teg sets out why the new Welsh Government need to prioritise support for community-led energy projects to achieve a stronger, greener, fairer future.
The election results are in. The sixth Senedd is in business. The returning First Minister, Mark Drakeford says it will be “radical” and “ambitious”. Community enterprises all over the country are ready and waiting to deliver on this promise.
At Community Energy Wales we have been championing community-led radical and ambitious projects for the past decade. We have a plan to do much more in the next decade. Leading up to the elections we set-out our demands for the sixth Senedd in a co-produced manifesto. We have a new organisational strategy in place to implement the demands of the manifesto. We are ready to go!
Community Energy Wales is a membership organisation that helps and gives a voice to community groups working on energy projects across Wales. Our mission is to support and accelerate the transition to a fair, net zero emission and community-led energy system. An energy system that has people at its heart.
Communities all over Wales have been delivering incredible energy projects. In Wales we have the largest community owned wind farm project, the largest community owned solar roof, the largest community owned hydro south of Scotland, the UK’s first site that allows local people to benefit from locally generated electricity and the list could go on.
These projects deliver benefits that fulfil the vison behind Wales’ world leading Wellbeing and Future Generations Act. Community energy provides social, environmental, economic, and cultural linguistic benefits. In fact, we know that community energy delivers 12-13 times more social and community benefits than equivalent commercial installations. In 2019, the sector, generated over £6.7 million in local economic benefit to their local community in Wales, Scotland, and England. All this points to the key role community action can play during the sixth Senedd in building a greener and fairer future.
Earlier this year we learnt that, given a supportive policy environment, the community energy sector could expand by up to a factor of 20 by 2030, creating up to 8,720 jobs, and bringing about a £1.8bn boost to local economies across the UK. This would save 1.8m tonnes CO2e and cut £150m from consumer bills.
All this action is taking place within the context of a climate and biodiversity emergency. The Climate Change Commission has told the Senedd that the 2020s are the “decisive decade”. The last Senedd published an engagement plan explaining their “approach to collaboration and involvement throughout 2020 and 2021, as to how we see every public body, business and citizen in Wales as being able to play their part in determining how we meet increasingly ambitious climate goals”. Communities throughout Wales are waiting to take part and our manifestos highlight what we need to make the most of this “decisive decade”.
The Community Energy Wales Manifesto dovetails effortlessly with Building Communities Trust’s Stronger Welsh Communities document and Co-Pro Wales open letter to the government. As we’re finding with the development of the Community Movement for Wales we are all pushing in the same direction. Now we need the Senedd to come onboard.
Our asks are relatively simple:
Work with us by providing more investment to achieve our potential.
YnNi Teg received Foundation Economy funding from the Welsh Government to develop a professional community energy development company. Peer to peer support from one community energy organisation to others. With this help, YnNi Newydd is now developing the UK’s largest community-owned solar farm. Elin Hywel recently wrote for BCT about the importance of community ownership and the foundational economy and both BCT and Community Energy Wales are asking for more challenge funding of this type.
Work with us by providing access to land and buildings.
BCT have highlighted a lack of respect as a key barrier to greater collaboration and mutual understanding. We need public bodies to recognise our expertise. Without this respect and recognition, community energy organisations have struggled to create partnerships with the public sector. Often this has led to the loss of projects and the mutual benefits they would bring. There are good examples, such as Swansea Community Energy & Enterprise Scheme (SCEES) and Egni’s work in Newport.
Building energy projects on public buildings and support for community ownership of this infrastructure poses great potential. A Community Empowerment Act, combined with good practice guidance for greater collaboration, would be a welcome development. Realisation of these projects would be much smoother if the Welsh public sector committed to buying electricity from community-owned projects.
Work with us on the road to net zero.
The impacts of climate change are already being felt in our communities. Citizen’s Climate Assemblies are being piloted as a means of putting communities at the heart of the transition. GwyrddNi in Gwynedd, with National Lottery Climate Action Funding, will host 20 Community Climate Assemblies in the next two years to help people have their voices heard and empower them to take action by co-producing Community Climate Action Manifestos. These events replicated across Wales will help us meet the demanding targets for net zero.
There is no doubt we are all pushing in the same direction. Now, we need to work together across the community and public sector to build a greener future, one that is fair and just. Community organisations across the country are working on this now. We are delivering “radical” and “ambitious” projects and we are ready for the new Welsh Government to join us, to scale our work, and to retain the benefits locally. This sixth Senedd will see us halfway through the “decisive decade”. There’s no more time to wait. Come on, let’s do this together!