Nuclear-Free councils demand power to rival big six

Following the approval of Hinkley Point C and the cutting of windfarm subsidies, local councils demand power to grow community owned companies

THE ASSOCIATION of nuclear-free local authorities (NFLA) has sent a newly published guide to the UK, Scottish and Irish energy ministers to urge more support for local energy projects to challenge the dominance of the UK’s six biggest energy companies.

Campaigners argue that the power of the ‘big six’ to raise prices rather than compete for customers means higher fuel tariffs, poorer households and higher fuel poverty. Deals such as the Hinkley nuclear plant and cuts to windfarms subsidies display a negative trend for sustainability and renewables.

In the guide, the NFLA gives examples from Scotland and England of local councils that have set up council owned energy bodies and developed sustainable power.

“We call on the UK Government to move away from its obsession with new nuclear and fracking and embrace this local energy revolution.” Ernie Galsworthy

In a statement, an NFLA spokesman said: “The motivation for local authorities getting involved in energy is wider than just the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As large consumers of energy themselves high energy prices are having a big and negative impact on council budgets.

“By generating their own energy or reducing consumption, or encouraging community projects to generate energy and reduce consumption, they can bolster the local economy and generate revenue at a time of severe budget constraints.

“Decentralised energy and energy efficiency projects allow them to bring money into the local economy by making the most of grants and financial support available.

“Councils also want to assist residents suffering from fuel poverty. If low-income families spend less on energy, they will have more money to spend in the local community, whilst their general health will inevitably improve.

Citizens Advice welcomes fresh Aberdeen City Council attempt to tackle fuel poverty

The report takes as its example council projects in Fife which seek to develop hydrogen-powered vehicles, Islington Council which is capturing waste heat from the London Underground to power local homes and Shetland Island and Western Isles councils that are developing localised energy companies to tackle high levels of fuel poverty in small island communities.

In Scotland, a noted example is Aberdeen which in August agreed to set up its own Energy Services Company (ESCo) in efforts to manage all of the city's energy use, deployment and development.

“By generating their own energy or reducing consumption, or encouraging community projects to generate energy and reduce consumption, they can bolster the local economy and generate revenue at a time of severe budget constraints.” NFLA

Councillor and NFLA chairman, Ernie Galsworthy, added:  “This report comprehensively shows that councils are delivering dynamic projects across all aspects of renewable energy, district heating and energy efficiency.

“We call on the UK Government to move away from its obsession with new nuclear and fracking and embrace this local energy revolution.

“With further support from the Scottish and Welsh Governments and the new devolved entities in England a structure could be put in place which could see the UK follow the great examples of the likes of Germany, Denmark and Austria in using decentralised energy as a key solution for developing a low carbon energy system”.

In September, the UK Government gave its go-ahead for the Hinkley nuclear facility to be expanded with a new site C reactor. It was also revealed that the tariff price negotiated with owners EDF and the Chinese state nuclear company CGN would mean increased prices for customers across the UK.

The Financial Times (FT) estimated that over the next 35 years Hinkley Point C would generate revenues of between £100bn to £160bn for these main corporate stakeholders. In contrast, the Scottish Government has called repeatedly for the subsidies cut for offshore windfarms to be reversed and has promoted new tidal projects such as the Nova Innovation grid.

Picture courtesy of xymon

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