Renewable energy is now undoubtedly an essential part of our energy mix. Renewables accounted for 28.3% of our energy mix according to the government’s own figures (see Fuel mix disclosure data table). Indeed so familiar are we all now, of the surreal shapes of wind turbines and PV on roofs and fields within our borough.
So hats off then to Havering Council for looking at the feasibility of harnessing the power of the sun (to produce free electricity) by developing solar parks on council land. Further, if developed correctly the proposed solar parks will also have a positive impact over their 25 years, on local biodiversity by enhancing the habitat for a range of plant and animal species such as wild flowers, butterflies, bees and birds.
Headlines though; ‘Havering to make money from Solar Parks’ (Romford Recorder 02 August 2016), doesn’t sit well with our community ethic. If the Council wants to generate significant extra income for the borough by developing renewable energy options, why can’t the local community benefit from a sharing ownership of the solar park. After all its not the Council’s land, but our land held in trust by the council
Havering Council could not only lead the transition to cleaner energy sources that is happening around the UK but also play a critical role in empowering local people. Community ownership of solar farms not only produces clean energy but also real community benefit in the form of community contribution, interest and involvement.
We call on the Council to make the next step and allow community ownership of the solar parks that they are developing. Community ownership will not only offer a good return for local share holders but also add considerable local community benefit. Community owned solar parks would be a focal point for pride locally owned assets and funds generated could be reinvested in local energy efficiency schemes, enhancing the local environment, the well-being and safe guarding of our future.