This event forms part of a series of six events (two online and four in-person) that Regen is delivering for NGED as part of its programme of community energy support. In response to asks from community energy organisations and the calling of a general election, we focused on the topics of partnering with local authorities and businesses, progressing retrofit and heat decarbonisation, community engagement and taking a solutions-led approach to some of the barriers facing the sector. This blog post summarises the main insights from the event.

Community energy partnerships

Ben Dodd, the director of Green Fox Community Energy, delivered a presentation and workshop on the Leicestershire CAN (Collaborate to Accelerate Net Zero) project. His session delved into this partnership project, discussing how it will set out a route map for Net Zero in the county and will involve, among other things, the development of a Local Area Energy Plan (LAEP) and the growth of community energy projects in the region.

The associated workshop highlighted the importance of advocacy, awareness-raising and leveraging community assets such as roofs of community-owned buildings for solar installations. Suggestions for how local authorities with limited funds can support community energy included permitting renewable installations on local authority-owned buildings and helping community groups access grants. The role of public meetings in gathering interest and initiating projects was emphasised, as was the potential for community benefits from larger developments.


Developing energy efficiency & retrofit programs

Miranda Cumberbatch, CEO of Nottingham Energy Partnership delivered a presentation on delivering energy efficiency and retrofit programmes through the H.E.A.T Hub. Her presentation described the significant positive impacts of delivering free in-person energy advice sessions that provide people with the opportunity to develop a phased approach to improving the energy efficiency of their homes. We heard about how this approach had led people to develop the confidence to ask questions and to develop trust in installers. The presentation highlighted the benefits of people having access to experts, but also meeting like-minded people.


Overcoming barriers to community energy

Michaela Cryar, director of Younity, led a session on overcoming the barriers to community energy. The session focused on discussing key challenges as well as delving into some of the solutions. Challenges discussed included:

  • Volunteer time and capacity
  • Regional disparities in community energy
  • The lack of a clear financial or business model for community projects
  • Difficulties in reaching the wider community.

We learned about the range of support measures that Younity has developed, including how it purchases energy from community energy groups via Power Purchase Agreements, its kickstart loan facility, designed to overcome the barrier of access to finance, and its volunteer platform, Community Energy Connect, which aims to match the skills of volunteers with the needs of community energy groups.


Community engagement

A second workshop, led by Regen, focused on community engagement. The workshop began with a presentation on effective methods for reaching and engaging the wider community. Participants then delved into the challenges and strategies for fostering involvement. A key takeaway was that, once people are engaged, they are highly committed, but taking the first step is often daunting.

Participants shared their experience of using different methods of engagement, including the role of community champions, using a mobile exhibition van and tailored engagement, finding the right hook and using active communication channels, like WhatsApp groups. There was a consensus on the necessity of varied engagement tactics for different communities and the importance of clear, compelling messaging about global warming. The ‘Why, How, What’ model was suggested as an effective way to articulate visions and engage communities.

Overall, it was an interesting day, with lots of inspiring conversations. We look forward to our next event, which will be our post-election community energy webinar in September.  Register for that here and if you would like to keep up to date with information about that and other future community energy events, you can sign up to our mailing list here.


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