Let homeowners sell green electricity to their neighbours, says environment committee chair

·3 min read
Philip Dunne is the chair of the Environment Audit Committee
Philip Dunne is the chair of the Environment Audit Committee

Homeowners should be allowed to create their own green electricity and sell it to their neighbours, the chair of the environment committee has told the government.

Currently, those who create renewable energy using solar panels or hydroelectric dams have to sell it back to the grid, rather than using it to power their own homes or those of their neighbours.

Philip Dunne MP, backbencher and chair of the Environment Audit Committee (EAC), has written to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng asking him to cut the red tape and allow local communities to power themselves.

He argued that allowing people to profit from green energy would cause more projects to spring up across the country, helping the UK to reach Net Zero.

Currently, there are many barriers in place, particularly for rural communities. The MP for Ludlow explained: "It must make sense for local projects to be able to consume the electricity they’re generating, partly because the grid is posing a real barrier for some of these projects getting off the ground.

"Getting a grid connection is both incredibly costly and time consuming. There are many schemes that have been held up by the inability of the grid to absorb them at the rate they pop up. There is a failure of the grid to absorb supply in remote places."

If it were possible to power local homes directly from the electricity generated from neighbourhood projects, it would make it financially viable to invest in green electricity, he added. Mr Dunne has personally joined a local scheme in Ludlow, where 50 investors set up a hydroelectric dam. However, they have to sell the electricity back to the grid, and cannot use it locally. The dam produces enough energy to power 40 homes.

A new report from the EAC recommends that regulatory and grid-connection barriers are removed to allow community projects to sell their energy to their local communities. It argued that ministers could look to the Netherlands for examples of successful harnessing of this potential. There, 70,000 citizens are "off grid", part of local energy schemes, powered by electricity from solar, biogas, wind and hydroelectric dams.

Mr Dunne said of his own community energy scheme: "I think people would love to be able to use the energy in their homes around the river."

He believes that the initiative could take off around the country if it would save local people money, adding: "If people can invest in something that will lower their own bills, then that’s an incentive."

The committee hopes that the business secretary will make community energy part of its strategy.

"I think there’s real potential here and I feel it is disappointing it was not really identified in the energy white paper," Mr Dunne explained.

"I hope the new Beis minister will seize the moment and pick up our recommendations and run with it. It’s self help that doesn’t require large amounts of government subsidy."

One day, he hopes, every new house will be built with solar panelled roof tiles, and be able to cut large amounts of money off their energy bills.

He said: "We are doing an inquiry into the sustainability of the built environment and I know Tesla brought out a solar panelled roof tile which they launched with fanfare in America - it certainly hasn’t got here - but one of the main construction suppliers has developed his own, that is something I am really interested in, as if we can start building new houses with solar panel roof tiles as part of the construction, it can become a normal part of construction and people can at least partially power their own homes and lower their energy bills."

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