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Council commits to radical increase in locally-owned renewable energy across Sheffield

A motion supported by Labour and the Greens suggests all new council-owned buildings will feature solar panels "where technically feasible".

City centre the moor market 2

Many prominent public buildings like the Moor Market do not currently have solar panels.

Rachel Rae Photography

Councillors in Sheffield have voted to support a motion calling for more local and community-owned renewable energy generation in the city.

Put forward by the Greens and amended by Labour, the motion proposes all new council-owned buildings feature solar panels "where technically feasible," and promises to carry out an audit of existing buildings and land for renewable energy potential.

The council also want to make it easier for citizens to launch their own local renewable energy projects through initiatives like Community Share Offers and Municipal Bonds.

“The twin climate and cost-of-living crises require rapid and radical action, to transition us away from polluting fossil fuels, end our reliance on Russian gas, and generate enough energy for our communities," said Crookes councillor Minesh Parekh.

“Sheffield is already a leader in renewables generation, and in the absence of government action we’re working to build Sheffield as a powerhouse for clean growth."

Most of the biggest public buildings in the city centre, including Ponds Forge, the Town Hall and City Hall, do not currently have solar panels on their roofs.

At Park Hill, a group of residents (including the writer of this piece) are currently working to persuade developer Urban Splash to install solar panels on the building's iconic flat roof.

The new motion says the council hopes to remove procurement barriers to producers selling their energy locally, and in doing so will "level the playing field between community-owned energy and privately-owned giants."

It also suggests introducing a 20% minimum level of local ownership over any new energy scheme generating 5MW or above within Sheffield itself.

The city is already home to Sheffield Renewables, a pioneering Community Benefit Society that cover the costs of installing solar panels on buildings before recouping the investment by selling energy to the grid.

Cllr Parekh told Now Then that the motion aims to address council procurement rules that have made it difficult for the company to install panels on buildings like the Moor Market in the past.

Supporters say the motion is designed to complement the Mayor of South Yorkshire's Energy Strategy, which aims to double the number of community energy organisations in the county by 2040 and produce 100kW of community energy per year by 2030.

"South Yorkshire’s communities were built on the wealth of the carbon economy, based on the coal and iron in the hills around us," said Mayor Oliver Coppard. "Now, we have the opportunity for our region to power a world ready for net-zero."

"I'm really pleased that our motion was passed today about renewable energy," said Green councillor Tina Gilligan.

"Sheffield City Council will now start looking at how it can increase renewable energy in the city. This will be good not only for households but will also help the council reduce costs."

by Sam Gregory (he/him)

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