Published on February 6th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan1
UK Groups Push for the Grassroots Solar & Wind Energy Route
Solar power is blowing up. And that’s expected to continue for many years into the future. While I’m all for solar power expansion of any sort, like the majority (or even over 90%) of people are, I (like most) prefer to see the myriad benefits of solar going to the little guy, the common citizen, rather than yet another mega-corporation or energy company.
One way to make that happen is with community-owned solar projects. As I said, a lot of people are behind this. In fact, civil society groups in the UK representing approximately 12 million people said last week that this was the country’s best opportunity for switching to a low-carbon economy, and that such projects should get more government support. Such groups include the Co-operative, the National Trust, the Church of England, and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.
As I’ve noted before, such projects are extremely helpful in overcoming knee-jerk NIMBY reactions to big solar or wind farms.
UK Not Leading the Way
The organizations calling on more government action, clearly, are not that happy with the way the UK is going about decarbonizing itself.
“Many other European countries are way ahead of the UK, as we found out when visiting German communities last year,” Patrick Begg, director of rural enterprise at the National Trust, said. ”Germany produces over 20% of its electricity from renewable sources, with communities generating about a quarter of this. In the UK, less than 1% is generated by our communities, a figure this [civil society] coalition wants to dramatically increase by 2020. We are asking the government to support us in this.”
“The WI has been active on renewable energy since the 1970s,” Ruth Bond, chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, said. ”We see community energy as people working together, not having schemes imposed on them. This is a great opportunity for our 7,000 WIs across the UK to tackle climate change and leave a legacy for the next generation.”
“We want nothing less than a clean energy revolution, with communities controlling and benefiting from their own renewable energy,” Paul Monaghan, head of social goals at the Co-operative, said. ”Talk of a new dash for [shale] gas, which could see up to 3,000 wells installed across the UK, highlights the choices we face – more and dirtier sources of fossil fuels or clean energy owned and controlled by communities.”
It’s clear there’s a groundswell of demand for more community-oriented solar and wind power projects. Will the UK government deliver?