COUNCILS must consider energy co-operatives and investment in new systems to cut their fuel bills, a Green Party politician has said.

City and county councillor David Williams has called on authorities to consider schemes similar to ones in use in Southampton and Woking, where the councils are involved in generating their own electricity.

Mr Williams, who represents the East Oxford division of Iffley Fields on both councils, said he wanted environment bosses at County Hall and the Town Hall to look into generation as a way of saving money on bills.

He said: “Pioneering efforts by Southampton and Woking councils have helped these local authorities keep their own energy bills under control.

“They now intend to extend the benefits of their efforts to their local communities, including supplying more households with energy.

Oxford City Council and our county council can investigate the cost advantages of investing in renewable systems of energy generation to cut their own costs, and those of local residents in the longer term.”

He added that councils should also consider forming co-operatives to generate their own energy. Co-operatives are organisations owned and run by their members.

He said: “Brighton has an active energy co-operative expanding renewable electricity supplies in Brighton and neighbouring areas.

“Plans already exist for more renewable energy in Didcot and further expansion of the efforts of the Westmill Solar team, which has a solar park near Watchfield.

“Co-operatives UK has issued a major report on this growing energy sector with case studies of working examples of energy cooperatives around the country.

“It would clearly be better to use council reserves to support energy conservation and clean energy than allow more Oxfordshire households to join the estimated 4.5 million UK households in fuel poverty.”

County council spokesman Martin Crabtree said: “The city and the county have joined together for a project called OxFutures with The Low Carbon Hub, a non-profit Community Interest Company which re-invests surpluses in local energy projects.

“OxFutures has already led to the hydro-power scheme currently being constructed at Osney Lock and the largest solar PV scheme in the county on the roof of the Oxford Bus Company garage, funded by local investors.

“There are many more projects in the pipeline.”

City council executive member for cleaner, greener Oxford John Tanner – who has unveiled a wood-chip boiler to heat the Town Hall – said: “With nearly £1m of European funding, Oxford City Council and the Low Carbon Hub are already supporting renewable sun and river energy projects.

“We plan to do much more across the city making use of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).

“We do support co-operatives, such as the Osney hydro-scheme, wherever we can.

“I am very pleased that Labour’s approach has all-party support.”