Growth of communities taking renewable energy into their own hands

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A new report from Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Group today reveals the growing numbers of people who are choosing to start renewable energy schemes in their communities, against all the odds.

New report highlights the growth of communities taking renewable energy into their own hands.

Co-operative renewable energy in the UK is the first and most comprehensive guide to a new movement of communities who are taking action for greener energy into their own hands by investing money and together installing solar panels, large wind turbines or hydro-electric power.

The comprehensive report shows that:

· There are 43 communities who are in the process of or already producing renewable energy;

· Together local residents have invested £16 million in these schemes, ranging from over £2 million in a windfarm in Oxfordshire through to much smaller sums to install solar panels;

· Green economy co-operatives are the fastest growing part of the UK co-operative sector, having grown by 24% since 2008.

More negatively, the report also highlights barriers facing communities wanting to create green energy for their community: shifting government legislation, planning hurdles and bureaucracy that makes it hard for local schemes to establish themselves.

River Bain Hydro, for example, has successfully set up a hydro electric scheme in North Yorkshire, despite spending a large proportion of its limited time negotiating with power companies because of a lack of co-ordination. As they explain: “Between the power house and the grid, a distance of a hundred yards, we ended up with five different organisations involved in delivery.”

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, said: “We’re delighted to see this report. It’s the first time anyone has captured what people across the UK are doing – working together, investing money and creating their own renewable energy.

“There’s a lot stacked against communities on this – changing legislation, red tape, not to mention hard economic times – yet people show a commitment to green energy and we are seeing a new movement of people doing it themselves.”

Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals at The Co-operative Group, said: “The potential for a community-led clean energy revolution in the UK is enormous. Countries like Germany and Denmark have shown us the way.

“With The Co-operative Bank’s commitment to invest £1 billion in renewable energy by 2013, and our broader support for co-operative enterprise, we are ready to help realise the significant benefits that community energy can deliver for society and communities.”

To find out more about the report, visit www.uk.coop/renewable

Co-operatives UK (www.uk.coop) works to promote, develop and unite co-operative enterprises. It has a unique role as a trade association for co-operatives and its campaigns for co-operation, such as Co-operatives Fortnight, bring together all those with a passion and interest in co-operative action. Any organisation supportive of co-operation and mutuality can join and there are many opportunities online for individuals to connect to the latest co-operative news, innovations and campaigns. All members benefit from specialist services and the chance to network with other co-operatives.

The Co‑operative Group is the UK’s largest mutual business, owned not by private shareholders but by almost six million consumers. It is the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, the leading convenience store operator and a major financial services provider, operating both The Co-operative Bank and The Co-operative Insurance. Among its other businesses are the number one funeral services provider and Britain’s largest farming operation. As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Group has also set out its social and sustainability goals in its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, which specifies almost 50 commitments in these areas. The Ethical Plan commits to investing £11m to support the growth and development of co-operatives by 2013, and to extending commercial lending in the area of energy efficiency and renewable energy from £400m to £1bn.

www.co-operative.coop and www.co-operative.coop/join-the-revolution/our-plan/

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