This year the coalition launched the UK’s first ever Government community energy strategy. That marks a profound step change for the energy sector and includes a series of ambitious new measures. To take that agenda forward, the Department is setting up a dedicated community energy delivery unit.
Those are wide-ranging plans that have been long in gestation. I am sure that the Minister is as keen as I am to take specific steps to help clean our energy supply and sustain local communities. What specific measures in the plan will enable local communities to take a lead in developing renewable energy in their area?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s long-standing interest in campaigning for renewable energy. Let me assure him that there is a great deal of meat in the community energy strategy. We are establishing a £10 million urban community energy fund, providing seed funding for a one-stop-shop information resource, launching a £100,000 community energy saving competition, and setting up an industry-led taskforce to achieve greater shared ownership of onshore renewables. Altogether, it is a bold vision with a plan for delivery.
The Minister will be aware that a number of community-based combined heat and power schemes that were proceeding exactly on the basis set out in the strategy paper he mentioned have now collapsed thanks to the changes in the energy company obligation that his Department announced recently. Does he intend to take steps to use the resources he has mentioned, as set out in the community energy strategy, to help retrieve those schemes? If not, what message does he think will be sent on the future of the community energy strategy as a whole?
We certainly want to see more CHP, and we now have a dedicated resource in the Department supporting it. This comes back to the point I made earlier. Labour Members have to decide: are they going to stand up for endless subsidy or support us in driving down the cost of consumer bills? They cannot have it both ways.