Community energy can be broadly defined as energy projects in which local residents and businesses have a shared stake and are the main intended beneficiaries. Community energy has the potential to engage local communities in energy matters, with the aim of bringing two main benefits for the low-carbon transition: acceptance of change, and engagement with energy. Projects can also be methods of delivering other benefits for communities. Motivations include political objectives, local priorities, and some consumers’ desire for more control of their energy affairs.
The Energy Research Partnership (ERP) has produced a discussion paper on community energy in the UK. The paper presents examples of community energy in the UK and other countries, highlighting the motivations, benefits, costs and risks, and identifying challenges that community energy faces in the UK. Those challenges are grouped into: assessing outcomes, deploying projects, and delivering benefits. The paper considers how to improve the assessment of projects, and to improve the understanding of the role of community energy in the UK in order to determine whether its net impacts (and their distribution) justify addressing the challenges that it faces.Show more
Conclusions & Recommendations
- There are examples from around the UK and from other countries in which community energy has delivered benefits in the energy sector (public acceptance of change, and engagement with energy), as well as wider social benefits for communities.
- There is a need for improved assessment of projects in the UK, and improved understanding of community energy’s role in the UK in order to determine whether its costs and benefits (and their distribution) justify addressing the challenges that it faces. We recommend:
- improving assessment of projects, and providing guidance for decision makers;
- facilitating studies by providers of technology and services; and
- conducting studies to review existing projects, monitor new projects, and trial alternative arrangements for local energy.
- There are opportunities in the short-term to increase the uptake of projects (including for conducting studies) and to improve the delivery of expected benefits. We recommend:
- provision of tailored advice to project groups; and
- provision of opportunities to delegate administrative tasks.
We will work in autumn 2015 with community energy support groups, policy makers and research funders to progress our recommendations, focusing on the proposed research.
Steering Group chair:
- Naomi Luhde-Thompson, Friends of the Earth
- Anna Wieckowska, Hitachi
- Laura Morris, ETI
- Christian Inglis, Innovate UK
- Chris Noyce, ESRC
- Fiona Booth, DECC
- Ron Loveland, Welsh Government