At the start of the month we held our second community energy forum with Northern Powergrid, ‘Community energy and a green recovery’. It was a great opportunity to build on the discussions we had at our first forum in June and think about how energy projects can be harnessed to build resilience in communities, support the recovery from the pandemic and set us on a path to net zero.

We had 47 community and local energy representatives join us, some of whom were at the beginning of their community energy journey, while others were experienced community energy practitioners. Whatever stage people were at, all were keen to help tackle the climate emergency and help their community become more sustainable, looking at how to work with their Distribution Network Operator (DNO) to achieve this.

We heard from Paul Hewitson of Hartlepower, a leading example of a community energy organisation who, while not being able to do as many energy generation projects after Feed-in Tariff cuts, have branched out, looked at what else they can do for their community, and diversified their projects. Paul spoke about their exciting new e-scooter project around Hartlepool, their EV charging station and car club partnership with Enterprise, as well as their long-term energy advice work and solar installation service. They have even set up an energy hub to give a space for small, local businesses to thrive in a community building.

According to Paul, one of the keys to their success has been making the work they do in their community fun and interesting to get as many people as possible involved, and giving team members and volunteers the freedom to run community projects how they want to. Hartlepower’s strong presence in their community is testament to how they have engaged and connected with the people of Hartlepool.

Hartlepower are one of 20 community organisations focussed on delivering energy generation, storage, low carbon transport and energy efficiency projects in Northern Powergrid’s licence areas, as set out in their Regional Community Energy Study. The report is the first in-depth analysis of community energy across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, building on Northern Powergrid’s Community Energy Engagement Strategy, helping them to support the sector in their region by understanding what groups are currently doing.

One of the ways Northern Powergrid supports community energy groups is by partnering with them on innovation projects to find innovative solutions to energy system challenges which benefit both the network and communities. You can hear about Boston Spa’s community energy efficiency trial here, and find out more about network innovation and discuss your ideas with Northern Powergrid directly here. Regen has also written an electricity network innovation guide specifically for communities to help you start to explore innovative local energy projects.

For community energy to play a major role in helping communities rebuild post-COVID and get on the path to net-zero, having a diverse range of projects will be key to getting as many people as possible involved and having the maximum impact locally. Working with DNOs like Northern Powergrid can help you achieve your local energy ambitions. If you want to continue this conversation, then join us for our next community energy forum with Northern Powergrid on 19 November, head to their community energy website to find more resources, have your say on their next business plan, and watch our latest forum on our website.

Scooter Hartlepower E Scooters

Featured image: Hartlepower e-scooter launch, Seaton Carew

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