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Steve Watson, Community Energy Scotland, Patsy McGlone MLA, Chairman of the DETI Committee, Phil Flanagan MLA, Vice Chairman of the DETI Committee, Will Dawson, UK Community Energy Coalition and Lauri McCusker, Director of the Fermanagh Trust
‘Allow local communities to take more control of their energy bills and transform the energy system’ – that was the message at a ‘Community Energy’ event at Parliament Buildings hosted by the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment along with the Fermanagh Trust.
MLAs and key stakeholders met to discuss the issue of community energy, a relatively new concept here which has received far greater attention in GB. When looking at the distribution of community energy groups throughout the UK, Northern Ireland is very much underrepresented. This is in spite of the fact that taking part in collective switching, collective purchasing schemes etc not only allow people to take more control of their energy but save money on bills and can tackle issues such as fuel poverty.
Lauri McCusker, Director of the Fermanagh Trust, who have taken a leadership role in this development said “Government is starting to consider the importance of this issue, which is good news because the development of renewable energy not only helps meet ambitious climate change targets but can generate substantial new economic activity if community energy is at the heart of the development. It is a hugely untapped area but with the right support this sector can grow and develop exponentially. DETI have committed to producing a community energy strategy. This event is an important contribution towards that strategy”.
The recent publication of the UK’s first Community Energy Strategy by the Department of Energy and Climate Change says the generation of energy by communities themselves could put pressure on energy suppliers to drive down prices, cut carbon emissions and diversify the UK’s energy mix. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) have been waiting for the release of this strategy to help formulate their action plan for Northern Ireland.
Guest speaker Will Dawson from the UK Community Energy Coalition said “It was great to see support from the Assembly, the industry and community organisation. It is key to commit to working together long term to make it happen. Community Energy Coalition, including the Fermanagh Trust is ready and willing to support a community energy revolution in Northern Ireland."
Patsy McGlone, MLA Chairman of the Assembly Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment said “The Committee was delighted to host this stakeholder event with the Fermanagh Trust and hear from community energy specialists from throughout Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. Against the backdrop of climate change and rising fuel prices, community energy, when done sensitively with the support of local communities, presents an opportunity for us to reflect upon our relationship with energy.”
Clike here to view the the Community Energy report we launched on the day.
The Fermanagh Trust's Community Energy work is supported by the Building Change Trust