Cornwall’s Green Cornwall Director leads the charge to change the law on local government energy innovation
Last updated: 23/04/2010
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Government legislation which could have prevented Cornwall
Council from delivering some parts of its ambitious and innovative
Green Cornwall programme looks set to be changed – thanks to the
efforts of the Council’s Green Cornwall Director Stephen
Stephen, who is a leading specialist in climate change and has
written a number of books on local government law, identified the
potential problem while carrying out research on the legal duties
of local authorities in this area.
“The key Act of Parliament which covers the powers of local
authorities is The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act
1976.” explained Stephen. “It was while I was looking in detail at
the area of climate change for local government that I realised
that this Act would prevent local authorities from selling the
electricity generated from projects like local wind farms”.
Although Section 11 of the Act gives powers to local councils to
set up and run plants to produce heat or electricity or both – it
states that they have no legal powers to sell electricity to the
grid unless it is connected with heat.
“This could be a very serious problem for local councils“ said
Stephen. “Schemes using solar power, wind generation or even
hydropower produce electricity without heat – which means that
councils would be unable to sell the power produced by the schemes
to the national grid”.
“The Government is encouraging local authorities to take a
leading role in the development of renewable heat and electricity
but this restriction would severely limit their ability to do so
Stephen, Head of Local Government with top law firm Eversheds at
the time, wrote a briefing paper about his findings which was
presented at a round table event on energy hosted by Eversheds and
the New Local Government Network. This meeting was attended by
Energy Minister Lord Hunt who talked to Stephen about the issue and
then asked him for a copy of his briefing note.
Stephen has since joined Cornwall Council to run its Green
Cornwall Programme. This involves a host of renewable energy
“The Government is now considering changing the law to allow
local authorities to sell electricity generated from renewable
sources” said Stephen. “This would make a huge difference to our
plans to set up a solar energy park and council run wind farms and
then generate income for the Council by selling electricity to the
“I am very proud that by identifying and then highlighting this
problem, I have been able to help persuade the Government to
seriously consider changing this restriction”.
Interested parties have until 2 June to submit their views to
the Department of Energy and Climate Change who will make the final
decision on whether and how to change the restriction.
“We will certainly be urging the Government to change the law"
said Julian German, the Council’s Cabinet member for the
environment. “Cornwall Council is committed to developing local
renewable energy projects, with the creation of the solar energy
park and the wind farms an important part of our Green Cornwall
“To make these projects a success we need to be able to sell the
electricity and I hope that the Government will work with us to
enable us to achieve our aims”.
The Council’s position is also supported by Carolyn Rule, the
Council’s Cabinet member for the economy who said “As well as
helping the Council to reduce its carbon footprint, these renewable
energy projects are also key to the success of a wider
“Cornwall Council is determined to become a world leader in
tackling climate change and I am confident that the Government will
listen to our views and change the law”.
Story posted 15 March 2010.