Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, was responding to a question from Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion.
She asked: “Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Brighton Energy Co-op on its launch last night of the first community generation scheme in Brighton?”
Brighton Energy Co-op offered shares for sale last night (Wednesday 16 May) to raise money to pay for a solar power scheme.
The scheme will involve installing solar panels on the roof of six buildings in Shoreham Harbour and two churches – one in Kemp Town and one in Portslade.
Any surplus electricity generated by the solar or photovoltaic cells will be sold to the national grid and paid for under the terms of the feed-in tariff.
Mr Davey, a Liberal Democrat member of David Cameron’s cabinet, said: “I can congratulate the scheme in the honourable lady’s constituency.
“It shows that under the new regime of solar feed-in tariffs that we have introduced, there are still many communities that are going forward and making those investments.
“That belies much of the criticism we have heard in the House today.”
The criticism revolved around cuts being made to the feed-in tariff, with critics saying that it made switching to solar power less attractive to individuals and organisations.
Dr Lucas said aferwards: “The Brighton Energy Co-op is one of this city’s great success stories.
“As a long standing supporter I was delighted to join the team on Wednesday to help launch its first community-owned solar energy project.
“I was also pleased that the Secretary of State today joined me in congratulating the inspirational organisation for getting this exciting new venture off the ground, helping to put Brighton at the forefront of green energy innovation.
“However, I was disappointed that Ed Davey failed to offer any assurances that the government’s forthcoming reform of the electricity market will recognise the huge potential for community renewables projects here and across the UK.
“The coalition has pledged to ‘support community ownership of renewable energy schemes’, yet it is continuing to sideline such schemes in its overall energy strategy, which seems to be written by – and for – the Big Six energy companies.
“In countries like Germany, community ownership of the grid has played a key role in allowing renewables and energy efficiency to flourish – unlike here in Britain where the grid is privately owned and controlled.
“The government must make it easier for co-operatives like Brighton Energy Co-op, housing associations and local authorities to generate their own energy and to own their own grid, so that we can reduce our dependency on the Big Six, tackle high bills and reduce carbon emissions.”
Dr Lucas had earlier asked about fuel poverty when she said: “There is real concern that under ‘Green Deal’ plans there is not enough money for fuel poverty.
“Will ministers reconsider the possibility of recycling revenue from the carbon floor price and EU emissions trading scheme revenue into the ECO (Energy Company Obligations) pot to top it up and to prevent the poorest customers from cross-subsidising rich customers?”
The Conservative MP Gregory Barker, a minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, said: “The honourable lady raises a serious point.
“I listened to what she said in the Energy Public Bill Committee, to which she made a constructive contribution, about how we should design the ECO and use it to tackle fuel poverty more effectively.
“More than half the £1.3 billion of ECO subsidy will be targeted at the ‘fuel poor’ through various streams which should go a long way to meeting her concerns about the need to ensure that the fabric of our housing and the improvements to it have the ‘fuel poor’ at their heart.”