The sun is finally showing its face and enticing us onto the banks of the Stour – and, for the very brave, the beach. The temperatures aren’t the only thing that’s rising, though: households are to be hit with an average 5% increase in energy bills in 2019, well outstripping both inflation and average wage growth — if yours is growing at all. Unbelievably, 2.5 million households in the UK are already suffering from fuel poverty, while the big energy companies lock up massive profits off the backs of Canterbury and Whitstable residents who have enough to worry about without being slapped with another rise in bills. The Tory government’s typically watered-down copycat price cap has made almost no difference to most people’s energy bills (did you even notice that they’d implemented it?), and while a Labour government’s Green New Deal would put the brakes on the Big Six, invest in green industry and create regional energy cooperatives across the UK, we don’t have to wait for Westminster to act for us. We can take power into our own hands.
Don’t listen to anyone who says it’s not possible: towns and villages across the country are setting up so-called Community Energy Schemes – and a Labour-led Canterbury City Council administration would do the same here. Whether it’s Nottingham’s hugely successful Robin Hood community company providing not-for-profit power to households across the country, or the small cooperatives already being set up by and for ordinary people around the South East – people power is transforming and democratising energy for the long term and for the common good.
When communities choose how they generate electricity – building genuinely affordable council houses fitted with locally made solar panels, for example – we can not only do our part in the vital fight against climate catastrophe, but invest in local industry. When a company’s stakeholders and customers are the same local residents, profits can be reinvested into the area and prices kept down. If even small groups of people in Canterbury, Whitstable and the villages dare to come together to think radically differently about the way we produce our energy – backed and funded by a Labour Council – we will see the benefits in our community. We’ll not only know where our energy comes from but be producing it ourselves, and by investing in each other we will rebuild trust in our energy sector, relieve fuel poverty and strengthen our communities.
The for-profit energy market isn’t working, but nationalising it isn’t going to be good enough either. To create an energy sector that’s truly green, local and fit for the 21st century, we need to democratise it — and put power into the hands of the people.