An energy co-operative is asking consumers to join together not only to switch supplier and save money, but also to save energy and address climate change. Community Energy Direct has attracted over 5,600 electricity and gas customers across West Yorkshire, York and Rochdale so far, and it wants more people to sign up before it begins negotiations with energy suppliers on May 1st.

It plans a collective switch, using consumers’ combined buying power to secure a better deal. In last year’s Big Switch from Which?, Co-operative Energy won a nationwide reverse auction and over 37,000 people switched, saving on average £223 a year.

Community Energy Direct is working with Which? and with councils in Bradford, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York, as well as Rochdale Boroughwide Housing and Wakefield and District Housing. But it is going beyond simply switching by setting up and supporting “Energy Smart Clubs” led by local people to encourage consumers to employ simple energy saving measures. It runs training programmes for volunteers and, with its partners, is going door to door offering home energy advice.

It also offers access to attractive loans for people wanting to invest in renewable energy, and advice and support for those considering setting up a renewable energy co-operative.

CED was set up four years ago by Hugh Goulbourne of CO2Sense, community engagement specialist Anna Eagar, lawyer Cliff Mills and chief executive of Mutuo Peter Hunt, to offer energy saving, cost saving and renewables advice and support, and to target the poorest communities.

Mr Mills, who has written constitutions for The Co-operative Group and leisure co-ops like Greenwich Leisure, drafted its constitution.

“We’ve spent nearly all our resources in terms of government funding in targeting six areas of high deprivation,” says Mr Goulbourne. “Generally collective switches haven’t reached these people. In the Big Switch, for example, not a single person who switched was on a pre-payment meter.

“Collective switching is just one of the things we should be doing. Perhaps it’s the hook that draws people to become members, but we’re also focused on behavior change.”

Funded by the Department of Energy & Climate Change and its councils and housing association partners, CED is project managed by CO2Sense and receives community engagement support from Urban Life.

Article published in Co-operative News


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