Community Energy in the UK
'Today is the inaugural meeting of a new group of civil society champions who have been brought together by The Co-operative and its partners Forum for the Future and Carbon Leapfrog to act as renewable energy ambassadors. Late last year the group, which includes leading figures from the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), The Church of England and the National Trust, visited Germany to see for themselves examples of successful community renewable schemes. Today, they are meeting Chris Huhne, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to launch their vision for community energy. You can see the full vision and commitment here.
Representing millions, these organisations are seeking to unlock the potential for community renewable energy in the UK. They see the benefits - and the dilemma. Either we carry on scraping the barrel, seeking out evermore difficult-to-reach sources of oil and gas. Or, we embrace a new energy future, harnessing the UK’s vast natural resources of wind, water and solar power.
Simultaneously, The Co-operative Group launches its Community Energy Challenge, which will offer half a dozen communities support to develop renewable energy schemes that involve and benefit local people, change the way we think about energy, and inspire others to take action. Together these initiatives can play an important role in taking community energy mainstream.
There's no doubt about that doing community energy in the UK at the moment is hard work. But it brings rewards for those who put in the effort. Co-operatives UK recently produced a briefing on the state of play in the UK. Co-operatively owned energy generation is a vibrant and growing sector. The first co-operatively owned wind turbines, at Baywind in Cumbria, started turning in 1997. Since then, over 7,000 individual investors have ploughed over £16 million into community-owned renewable energy. They were the early adopters. " (http://www.forumforthefuture.org/blog/civil-society-leaders-call-new-energy-future)
* Article: Seyfang, G., Park, J. J. and Smith, A. (2012) Community Energy In The UK 3S Working Paper 2012-11 (Norwich: Science, Society and Sustainability Research Group)
"Community energy has been proposed as a new policy tool to help achieve the transition to a low-carbon energy system, but the evidence base for this strategy is partial and fragmented. We therefore present new empirical evidence from the first independent UK-wide survey of community energy projects. Our survey investigates the objectives, origins and development of these groups across the UK, their activities and their networking activities as a sector. We also examine the strengths and weaknesses of these groups, along with the opportunities and threats presented by wider socioeconomic and political contexts, in order to improve understanding of the sector’s potential and the challenges it faces. We highlight several key issues concerning the further development of the sector. First, this highly diverse sector is not reducible to a single entity; its multiple objectives need joined-up thinking among government departments. Second, its civil society basis is fundamental to its success at engaging local communities, and makes the sector quite distinct from the large energy companies these community groups are aiming to work alongside. There are inherent tensions and vulnerabilities in such a model, and limits to how much these groups can achieve on their own: consistent policy support is essential." (http://grassrootsinnovations.org/2012/10/09/working-paper-community-energy-in-the-uk/)