Collective ownership of the means of energy production has a distinguished history: it was proposed by Vladmir Lenin, enforced by Josef Stalin and implemented through the National Coal Board and the CEGB. Some readers may be concerned about the direction that Mr Davey’s thoughts appear to be taking.
But more seriously, I think that Mr Davey’s advisors at DECC have failed to explain to him that communal engagement in local energy does not by any means require communal ownership. For people to benefit from distributed renewable generation and energy storage there does need to be communal engagement: people need to belong to communities of interest in which energy can be bought and sold, so that they can get a decent return on costly energy plant.
But local energy markets can be realised without any communal ownership of the energy resources. For comparison, think how ridiculous it would be if eBay or Gumtree insisted on taking ownership of all the goods that were sold through them: hardly anybody would trade through them, because hardly anybody trusts big enterprises to act in the little man’s interests. It’s the same with energy: I’m not going to support any council that wants to spend my money on a community energy project, because I’d rather keep control of my own energy generation.
The marvellous scalability of distributed generation and storage equipment means that there’s simply no need for large-scale communally-owned installations. So please, Mr Davey, give some support to community of interest, to communal engagement, but not to communal ownership.
PS Curiously, Mr Davey (a graduate in economics, who therefore ought to have known better) also remarked ‘The last thing I want to see is significant negative impacts on consumer bills’. If he only supports communally owned energy systems, I fear that he will not be disappointed.’