Council backs Local Electricity Bill: MP non-committal

Settle Town Council agreed at its meeting on 20 July to support the Local Electricity Bill now before Parliament. The private members bill which is supported by a cross party group of 187 MPs, received an unopposed first reading in the House of Commons on 10 June and is due for its second reading on 11 September.

The bill aims to make it easier for local community-owned generators of electricity to supply the market at a cost which is appropriate to the size of their operations and by simplifying the process. Supporters of the bill claim that it is very difficult for local renewable energy generators to supply directly to their communities. Only suppliers licensed by the national energy regulator Ofgem are allowed to sell electricity to ‘end’ customers and to do this, companies must comply with network codes and agreements which are both technically and financially prohibitive. For the prospective supplier, setup costs alone would amount to many hundreds of thousands of pounds. They claim that it is therefore no surprise that nationwide energy suppliers are the only competitors in the energy market.

The bill, if passed into law would be a great help to new community funded projects, following the pattern of Settle Hydro, which require very high up-front investment, usually borrowed. The repayment and interest on these loans can swallow up profits which would normally go towards community ventures, especially those aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including renewable energy generation. In Germany similar legislation has led to the establishment of around 1000 locally owned supply companies, almost all of which are renewable.

The call for the Town Council to support the bill was made by Action on Climate Emergency (ACE) Settle and area who asked the Council to join the list of 187 MP’s, 264 Parish Town and Community Councils who have already agreed to support the Bill. The Council also agreed write to Julian Smith MP asking him to support the measure.

In his reply to the Town Council, the MP did not say that he supported the bill, but agreed to send a copy of the Council’s representations along with an email of his own to Alok Sharma MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He also said that he would write again to the Council as soon as he receives a reply from the Secretary of State.

Commenting on the action by the Council, Sandy Tod from ACE, who is also a director of Settle Hydro, said: “We are looking forward to working with the Town Council to identify and initiate potential community owned renewable energy projects in Settle and the surrounding area, following the example of Settle Hydro Ltd. The bill will make it possible for local residents to buy clean renewable electricity generated locally, supporting the local economy and ensuring the sustainability of our communities.”

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