There were 23 community organisations at Smart Energy marketplace last week, we celebrated the start of Community Energy Fortnight with a Feast for the Future in Devon on Friday, and went to the Community Energy Conference in Manchester on Saturday. Participation at these events demonstrates that the community energy movement is still strong, ambitious, and local organisations are determined to make the energy transition democratic, decarbonised, and fun.
We came away with plenty of reasons to feel positive so here are five:
- Impact – At the conference Community Energy England launched their state of the sector report which highlighted the 228 community energy organisations in England and Wales, with 168 MW of electricity generation capacity (33.5 MW new capacity in 2017), saving 71,000 tCO2 The south west is the strongest region with 58 community groups and the highest proportion of generation capacity. The Devon Community Energy Impact report evidences this in more detail here.
- Engagement – Cuts to the Feed in Tariff (FiT) have motivated community energy groups to return to their roots, by doing more on energy efficiency, fuel poverty, and community engagement, using home visits, gardening, art, housing, and food to involve people in the energy debate. The four communities taking part in the Feast for the Future project with Regen and Plymouth University will be hosting spin off feasts in their own communities over the next few months. This is to celebrate and create their own utopian visions for the future. Without positive stories and ambition there is a danger that the negative future narratives that dominate society are self-fulfilling.
- Growth – Community energy champion Pete Capener pointed out that at the start of 2014 there was 66 MW of community energy in the UK with 25 MW in England and Wales, so there has been a 4-fold increase at the UK level and a 7-fold increase in England and Wales. The increase in total UK renewable electricity generation over the same period was 2 fold. This is a major statement of the community energy movements capacity for growth, with the right support.
- Flexibility – DNOs are keen to collaborate and engage communities in the transition to Distribution System Operator (DSO) and a key part of this is the emergence of new local flexibility markets. If you want to find out more, come to one of our Flexibility Markets for Beginner events with Western Power Distribution in Cardiff, Birmingham or Nottingham in the next few weeks.
- Opportunity – The new EU Renewables Directive has a strengthened binding target of 32% renewable energy by 2030 and strong definitions for ‘renewable energy communities’ and ‘self-consumption’. While Brexit will undoubtedly have an impact on this ruling for the UK, these changes could filter down into UK law eventually, and at the very least will lead to more inspiring examples of energy democracy in Europe. We will continue to share best practice through the EU smart grid project SET-UP we are involved in.
The amazing people involved in community energy are the biggest reason to feel positive, there are still some big challenges to make sure the whole energy system becomes more democratic, decentralised and decarbonised, but the capacity of communities to deliver innovative and creative solutions is clear. We will be celebrating these brilliant people and projects at our Green Energy Awards in November, so get your nominations in here, and for the Community Energy England awards here.