The full, unedited responses for this question are available in this document: Candidates Responses-Q4.
Recent changes to the registration of co-ops and tax changes have put barriers in the way of community energy schemes. Conversely, George Osborne talks about tax breaks for fracking companies. Which would you prioritise and how?
Stephen Worrall (Liberal Democrats)
Stephen says that “You can rest assured that I would definitely prioritise community energy schemes, those tax breaks would be going to them rather than fracking if it was up to me!” He also says that the Liberal Democrats are committed to supporting new energy cooperatives in the next parliament.
UKIP’s policies on energy include repealing the Climate Change Act 2008, which costs the economy £18bn a year; supporting the development of shale gas with proper safeguards for the local environment; earmarking money from shale gas for lower council taxes or community projects within the local authority; no new subsidies for wind farms and solar arrays; the abolition of green taxes in order to reduce fuel bills.
Andrew Bingham (Conservative)
Andrew says that the Torrs Hydro scheme in New Mills is a “source of pride”. He recalls prior to the last election bringing Conservative Shadow Ministers to see it, as it shows the way to many other parts of the country. He says that how it was conceived, funded and built is a tribute to people in New Mills.
Man-made climate change is a serious threat to this country and the world. Left unchecked it will have far-reaching consequences for our society. Andrew says that this is why his party is taking action to deal with the threat of climate change and ensure Britain’s energy security after “thirteen wasted years from Labour”. This action includes the world’s first Green Investment Bank, support for smaller solar energy projects, and direct or enabling investment of hundreds of billions of pounds for clean, low-carbon energy, supporting up to 250,000 jobs. Renewable electricity has more than doubled and the amount of electricity we get from renewables has risen by 119% over the last four years.
As to the recent controversy over the registration of co-operatives for community energy, Andrew says that the “Financial Conduct Authority has been clear its current policy on the registration of co-operative and community benefit societies has not changed”. However, it has increased its focus on whether a society is a co-operative society or a community benefit society. As a result, some recent applications for registration as a co-operative society have been unable to show the necessary member participation. Andrew says that the FCA has met with societies and advisers to explain their findings.
And as to the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) providing tax relief to incentivise individuals to invest in higher-risk small and growing businesses, the Conservative Party believes that the community purpose underpinning community energy schemes makes accessing risk capital under Social Investment Tax Relief more appropriate than using the other tax-advantaged venture capital schemes that fall under the EIS. Andrew says that, “Even so, I recognise that community energy organisations face particular risks in comparison to commercial projects. As a result they can continue to benefit from tax-relieved investment despite the Government withdrawing eligibility from commercial projects.”
Andrew believes that the incentives are fair and sufficient to encourage investment into community energy organisations and remains committed to the community energy sector more generally.
Charlotte Farrell (Green)
Charlotte says that Greens would maximise the benefit of renewable generation to the local community through local ownership of generators, where possible through co-operatives. This would begin to balance the market domination of the big 6 energy companies. Community-owned renewable energy schemes such as have been successful in Germany allow far greater flexibility and security and must be given priority given the need to rid ourselves of fossil fuels because of climate change.
The Greens also totally oppose tax breaks given to all the fossil fuel companies. Fossil fuel extraction has to be scaled back and renewable energy increased. The Green Party is the only party to totally oppose fracking.
Caitlin Bisknell (Labour)
Caitlin fully supports community energy projects as a way of increasing the provision of cheaper, greener energy and would prioritise this over tax breaks for fracking companies. Labour wants to explore the potential for direct delivery of community owned generation into homes and businesses and ensure the regulatory environment supports the development of this sector.
Caitlin would also like to see local councils building new homes to the highest energy efficiency levels and encouraging other developers to meet those standards too; we also need to look at programmes to retro-fit our homes to make them more energy efficient.