“limiting global warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy… These systems transitions are unprecedented in terms of scale”

IPCC Special Report on the impacts of 1.5 °C of global warming, October 2018

Last month we held a community energy event in Birmingham with Western Power Distribution on the next generation of projects. Just 24 hours before the event where we’d be discussing the achievements of community projects and looking at what’s next for community energy, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their Special Report on the impacts of 1.5 °C of global warming.

This sobering report confirmed little more than what all of us in that room in Birmingham that day already feared about the threat of climate change. That human activities have already caused 1 °C of warming and could cause 1.5 °C of warming within 12 years at current rates. That the scale of the transition needed in the energy system to limit warming to 1.5 °C is unprecedented in scale. That limiting the planet to 1.5 °C of warming requires renewables supplying up to 80% of our electricity by 2050.

It would be easy to feel down about such a hard-hitting report. It could leave us wondering how a passionate, yet stretched and austerity-hit community energy sector could possibly lead this unprecedented transition in the wake of the Feed-in-Tariff closure. Yet what the report did, was focus minds on the challenge we face and why we are all involved in community energy.

There isn’t a silver bullet to easily solve climate change and keep us below 1.5°C, nor one to help community energy thrive once the Feed-in-Tariff closes in March 2019. What we need is, in the words of the IPCC, “a wide portfolio of mitigation options” – a diversity of business models and projects for community energy groups.

We saw this in Birmingham. The groups we heard from – Gwent Energy, Repowering London and Southill Community Energy – have all overcome barriers which might have derailed their projects by engaging their community and harnessing the people power in their local area. They all took community energy back to its roots, reminding us all that local people know best and community energy is for everybody. It can have massive social benefits and bring a community together, from energy gardens at train stations, to thermosolar beehives, to technical training programmes for young people.  All barriers are overcome by people working in their community, engaging people and creating an allegiance towards a common goal of sustainability.

From this groundswell of support, communities will be primed to make the most of any opportunities for new energy projects that come their way, as well as showing how popular community energy is, and being able to change policy. Western Power Distribution want to help communities and can influence the energy regulator and policymakers, but you need to tell them what you want to see. They’ve recently published the results of their consultation for communities on the future of our network, read and download the full report here, and you can talk to them at one of the eight community energy events we run with them each year.

Join us for our next community energy events with Western Power Distribution in Cardiff and Exeter on 6 and 7 March, and if you missed the event in Birmingham you can see the slides here. You can also read Regen’s response to the recent IPCC report on our website.

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