A People-Powered Transition: Why Community Energy Matters in Chris Skidmore’s Net Zero Review

We take a look at Chris Skidmore’s Mission Zero report and the importance of community energy.

In January, Chris Skidmore released his anticipated net-zero review: Mission Zero. The report calls for accelerated climate action from the UK Government. The Net Zero Review has travelled to all four nations of the UK, received 1800+ responses to their call for evidence, and held more than 50 roundtables. 

Achieving net zero is vital to slow the rise in global temperatures caused by climate change. MP Chris Skidmore’s Mission Zero report was commissioned to map out a “pro-growth, pro-business” pathway to delivering the UK’s climate targets that also contribute to levelling up. It acts as a comprehensive review of the UK’s approach to its net-zero target for 2050 after it was deemed unlawful last year following a legal challenge from Friends of the Earth and ClientEarth. The report is based on 1,800 responses from businesses and climate experts, making it one of the largest engagement exercises on net-zero in the UK and sets out 25 actions that the government should take in the next two years.

From this extensive national conversation, seven clear conclusions have emerged:

  1. Net zero is creating a new era of change and opportunity
  2. The UK must act decisively to seize the economic opportunities and smooth the transition
  3. The benefits of investing in net zero today outweigh the costs
  4. Unlocking the ambition of places and communities will deliver the most successful version of net zero
  5. Net zero can materially improve people’s lives – now and in 2050 – but work is needed to secure the benefits and minimise costs
  6. Net zero by 2050 remains the right target for the UK: it is backed by the science, widely followed, and is creating real opportunity
  7. Significant additional government action is required to ensure that the UK achieves net zero in the best way possible for the economy and the public

The report suggests that the benefits of reaching net zero would outweigh the costs. And going further, benefits will be felt the sooner action is taken. With a recent report claiming that with each super-tipping point – the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change within our climate – that is crossed, the chance of crossing others is increased, it is crucial to take action as soon as possible to steer us away from a climate catastrophe.

“It is important to recognise the vital role of communities in hosting energy infrastructure for the benefit of the wider society”.

National Grid, Mission Zero Report

Local action is key to delivering net zero in the cheapest and most effective way possible. Mission Zero advocates for reforms to local and national energy planning systems to “unleash” cheaper forms of electricity generation — onshore wind and solar — placing importance on local involvement and decision-making. This is to give local authorities and communities the power to act quicker, making sure the planning system supports net zero and turbocharging community energy and action.

The review also called for the British government to set an official target for solar power for the first time — proposing that the UK develops 70GW of solar generation by 2035 compared to the current figure of 14GW. 

At Low Carbon Hub we are excited about the conclusions that unlocking the ambition of places and communities will deliver the most successful version of net zero, and that net zero can materially improve people’s lives – now and in 2050 – but work is needed to secure the benefits and minimise costs. 

Skidmore urged a “step-change” in the government’s approach to the government’s climate targets by creating an “Office for Net Zero Delivery” to take ownership of priorities spanning multiple departments. We will see how many of the suggestions are carried forward into the government’s Net Zero plan, due to be re-released this April. 

What’s the role of Community Energy in all of this?

Community energy has the potential to create a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable energy system, while also driving local economic development and public engagement. The Net Zero Review recognizes the importance of community energy and highlights the need for increased investment in this sector.

The report recommends the government support community energy initiatives through various means, including funding, grants, and incentives. It also suggests that local authorities should provide support to community groups and encourage the deployment of renewable energy infrastructure, such as solar panels on public buildings.

Furthermore, the Net Zero Review proposes a “community energy fund” that would provide financial support to communities to develop and implement renewable energy projects. This fund would help to support the development of community-owned energy generation and storage, as well as energy efficiency measures.

Overall, Chris Skidmore’s Net Zero Review recognizes the critical role that community energy can play in achieving the UK’s net-zero emissions target. By providing support and funding for community-led energy initiatives, the report aims to encourage the growth of the community energy sector and help to build a sustainable, low-carbon energy system in the UK.

You can read the full report here.