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- Meet your MP about community energy this Community Energy Fortnight
- What next for community energy in a post-FIT world?
- We can do more to foster community energy in low-income communities.
- A new generation of investors are using their money to drive change
- People, Power and Happiness
- A review of CEF17
- Community energy, a magic bullet for a multitude of charitable objectives
- Community Energy Fortnight Lobbying Pack 2017
- How smart technology is empowering rural energy projects
- Community energy is not just what we do, but how we do it - By Ed Mayo, Co-operatives UK
- “It's all still to play for" says Co-op Energy's Head of Renewables
- York Community Energy trip round the panels of Auld Reekie with Edinburgh Community Solar
- The Ramblers: Protecting the places we love to walk in a changing climate
- Why Community Energy Fortnight is so important - By Emma Bridge
- CEF17 is Powering Together!
- Community Energy Fortnight 2017 dates announced and news of a new collaboration
- The community energy revolution is evolving, and the future’s bright
- Investing in community energy schemes
- Energising faith communities: the Spirit project
- Community Energy - the way forward
- CEF16 dates announced
- The community energy revolution pushes on in face of storm clouds
- Blogs 2015
- Blogs 2014
We can do more to foster community energy in low-income communities
In low-income communities, community energy activities rarely emerge directly from the grassroots – that is from, residents coming together to start an initiative, be it a solar project, a collective buying scheme or similar. Instead, what we tend to see is intermediary organisations – often very local ones, deeply embedded in the immediate neighbourhood – who provide the catalyst for this activity. These organisations are motivated to develop energy projects because of high levels of fuel poverty in the community or as a means through which to generate an income for the organisation to deliver their community development activities. Two good examples of these, local to us at CSE, are Ambition Lawrence Weston and Knowle West Media Centre.
The contrast with more affluent areas is significant. Here, the greater levels of skills and resources – including money and time – mean that these communities can more easily generate their own energy projects, often quite complex, involving considerable amounts of cash and taking several years to come to fruition. In these communities, residents are most often motivated by sustainability and climate change mitigation, and supporting a greener, more resilient local economy, with energy projects emerging from local Transition Town and ‘green’ groups. It was mainly these kinds of groups, rich in community-level capacity, who were ready and able to take advantage of the policies and subsidies which ushered in a 'golden era' of community energy schemes from 2008 to 2016.
And where, alongside these policy and fiscal mechanisms, there were local and national support programmes to encourage community energy – such as those that CSE ran, like UCEF and Green Open Homes – this also relied on community-level organisational capacity and awareness to take advantage of the opportunities offered.
None of this is to say that there aren't community energy initiatives in low-income areas – our report lists a dozen great examples. But it does mean that a different approach is needed to make community energy more attractive in low income communities.
I believe a critical step is to make community development organisations and local businesses more aware of the many forms community energy can take and the range of benefits it can bring, so that they might consider such a project where before they may not have done. The community energy sector has an important role in this communication, ensuring it tells a breadth of energy stories and that these resonate with the needs and resources of these local organisations and residents. Community development and regeneration organisations are well placed to ensure that projects address community priorities and build long-term social capital, and are embedded in and trusted by the local community so better able to engage residents than outsiders. Concurrently, local businesses are invested in the vibrancy and success of their local community. More could be done to engage Local Enterprise Partnerships and demonstrate the potential of community energy in bolstering the economic regeneration of low income areas.
Alongside this awareness raising, funding and support programmes need to be designed such that dedicated capacity is directed towards low-income communities so local organisations and businesses are more able to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Programmes also need to allow for much slower project emergence and development, with longer timeframes built into their design. Key actors in the community energy sector have a role in promoting these design principles – through their advocacy work, conversations with policy makers and funders, and the funded work they deliver.