Community energy is all about collective action to generate, manage and reduce energy locally. A growing number of local cooperatives and social enterprises across the UK are placing an emphasis on local engagement, leadership and control with local communities benefiting collectively from the income derived from renewables such as solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, wind turbines or hydroelectric power.

Aside from the obvious decarbonisation and democratisation benefits these projects bring, they provide opportunities to deliver lasting economic and social impact locally. The creation of local employment and skills training, securing new funding streams for community support services and fuel poverty alleviation programmes are just some of the ways in which this is happening.

The challenges

Community energy can be a highly efficient, low-cost way of delivering clean energy and saving money, in ways that private companies are unable to offer. But there are some fundamental barriers which are stifling progress of this bottom-up movement; be it incumbents working hard to maintain a centralised power system, poor public awareness of the new business models that can be deployed, or the time and effort it takes to identify and secure viable sites. By empowering communities to benefit from the transformation of our energy system, we can turn opposition to new solutions into active participation and support.

What we are doing

The Community Energy Coalition

In 2011, Forum for the Future convened the Community Energy Coalition (CEC), which today brings together more than 30 influential civil society organisations and energy practitioners, such as the National Trust, the Women’s Institute, the Energy Saving Trust, National Union of Students and the Church of England. Representing millions of people across the UK, these organisations are committed to making community energy at scale a reality in the UK by 2020. We use the collective power of CEC members to raise awareness about the benefits of community energy and to influence senior government advisors and politicians.

The CEC played an important role in the development of the first ever Community Energy Strategy launched by the UK government in 2014. Since 2013, Forum has been supporting the annual Community Energy Fortnight programme of events – from the Outer Hebrides to Cornwall, from energy efficiency schemes to hydro power plants – helping to engage and inspire the public about the wide-ranging benefits of this form of energy ownership. 

“When I came back [from the 2011 Community Energy ‘seeing is believing’ tour], I was in a position where I could stimulate something within the National Trust. So we now have a renewables programme that is aiming to generate 50% of our energy from renewables by 2020, and that’s started, we’re building things. The inspiration, collaboration and network from that tour was a vital catalyst and spark for that. We need more of that now.” 

Patrick Begg, National Trust

PowerPaired

In response to the difficulties community energy groups face in identifying and securing sites for renewables, we initiated a community energy asset bank, a curated online platform called PowerPaired.  In simple terms, we aim to create a nationwide energy matchmaking service that brings interested owners of viable buildings and land together with local community energy groups looking for sites.

During 2017 we conducted an intensive feasibility and design sprint - funded by the Friends Provident Foundation – and plan to begin user testing of the PowerPaired platform during the first half of 2018. We would love to hear from public and private asset owners (as well as community energy groups and supporting service providers) interested in knowing more and helping us pilot this innovative project. 

Interested? Talk to us

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