The UK's Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 as amended by the Energy Act 1989 gives local authorities power to sell heat, but includes a provision preventing local authorities from selling electricity which is produced otherwise than in association with heat.
“It’s ridiculous that the 1976 Local Government Act prevents councils from selling electricity from local wind turbines, or from anaerobic digestion," Huhne said in a presentation given to the Local Government Association annual conference.
“I want to see this repealed and by the end of the year I hope local authorities will be able to sell electricity from renewables – generating revenue to help local services and keep Council Tax down. Local communities can truly benefit from the low-carbon transition.”
The announcement came as the UK released figures showing the carbon footprint of every local council in England. The new figures calculate the CO2 produced by councils in powering and heating their buildings, such as libraries, schools and leisure centres, as well as emissions from business travel, fleet vehicles and even refuse trucks.
Dr Serge Younes, Sustainability Services Director at global environmental consultancy WSP Environment & Energy believes this a necessary step towards a 10% carbon reduction target:
"This is welcome news as overturning this ban is a necessary step if the Government is to achieve its 10% carbon reduction target. Green electricity generated by local councils on their properties and estates should be used on-site in the first instance, with any excess to be exported onto the grid."
And he added that selling green electricity would help stimulate public/private renewable projects: "We hope that these central government signals will help stimulate local government to set up public/private partnerships for the generation and supply of renewable heat and power. This will help cater for the needs of the wider community, as well as civic/council buildings. The revenues generated from such schemes could help local communities eradicate fuel poverty and either reduce the burden of increased council taxes or re-invest in other major civic programmes".