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- The community energy revolution is evolving, and the future’s bright
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Start your own community energy project
Setting up a community energy project may sound like a daunting prospect, but it certainly doesn’t need to be – and the rewards can be huge. With the correct direction and leadership, you could have your own project up and running before you know it.
At least 5,000 community groups have undertaken energy initiatives in the last five years alone.
There are plenty of useful publications, blogs and websites aimed specifically at people thinking about setting up their own community energy projects. Here is our pick of the bunch to help you get your plans into action.
The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC)
DECC has produced this guide aimed at local groups interested in setting up a community energy project. It provides answers to a wide range of questions including what practical and financial support is available for community energy, how shared ownership can work, how energy demand can be managed and suggested governance and legal structures.
This hands-on guide was developed by the Centre for Sustainable Energy to support communities and groups that are planning for low carbon living. The website and resource packs contain expert guidance and advice, technical information, videos, workshop ideas and case studies. It’s a comprehensive bundle of resources for community groups who might be:
o Planning a renewable energy project
o Engaging with the Green Deal
o Running an energy efficiency scheme
o Getting involved in localism or neighbourhood planning in their area.
Energy Saving Trust
This practical guide outlines how to set up a social enterprise, which is an increasingly popular way of launching a sustainable energy scheme. It includes:
o An at-a-glance guide on differences between each social structure available
o A list of typical skills necessary for day to day running of a successful social enterprise
o Tips on finding investment and funding
Engaging the Community
Once you’ve decided to go ahead, you’ll need the backing of the local community.
Community Pathways is an invaluable resource to help you find the right approach for your community to take action on climate change and includes working examples on different community approaches and lessons learnt.
Forum for the Future produced a guide to establishing and running low-carbon community revolving funds, 'Funding Revolution', which is designed to show communities how they can use smart finance to kick-start carbon saving projects in their area, and make their investment go further.
So, you've set up your project, but how can you tell if it's going well? This guide from the Energy Saving Trust tells you all you need to know about monitoring and evaluating what you're doing - from why it's important to what tools you can use.
There are several groups offering free advice and support to community energy enterprises.
o Community Energy England - supports community energy enterprises by seeking to represent, mentor, support and help source funding for sustainable community energy projects (both generation and efficiency).
o The Community Energy Practitioners Forum – a network that empowers and supports action by communities on sustainable energy across the UK. By bringing together leading charities it combines knowledge and experience that can help support community-led initiatives.
o Communities and Climate Action Alliance - an informal grouping of representatives from networks that support grass-roots action – it is a ‘network of networks’. By working together on shared agendas, they can respond quickly and appropriately to ensure the community role is part of the strategic discussion by government and other stakeholders.
o Low Carbon Communities - links and supports the rapidly growing movement of climate change groups that are forming at a local and community level.