Getting energy the cooperative way

I mentioned in a blog a month or so ago the green electricity distribution coop EWS, based in the south German village of Schönau.

I want today to say a little more about energy cooperatives. Britain has, of course, a number of small-scale community-based cooperative generating enterprises, most notably the much-vaunted Baywind.  We also have the national energy distributor Co-operative Energy (a subsidiary of Midcounties Co-operative Society), which is trying to provide a more ethical alternative to the big six commercial suppliers and generally I think making a pretty good fist of it. But in general, Britain is a long way behind many other countries. In the US, for example, cooperatives provide power generation and transmission for 42 million people in 47 states. Or another example: in Argentina, coops provide 10% of national energy production.

The lack of engagement by coops in Britain may because of history: early in the development of local government, gas and electricity generation and supply were usually taken into municipal ownership, later to be switched into national state ownership.  But now power has been privatised, it’s clear that we need to be looking more closely at possible cooperative models.

The examples of the US and Argentina I mentioned above come from a recently published report from the International Labour Organization, Providing clean energy and energy access through cooperatives. It’s an interesting overview of what is happening worldwide with some useful case studies;  it’s available here.

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