This report shares insights from a People’s Panel conducted by Regen and Shared Future CIC, with funding support from Scottish Government.
Last year Regen delivered research for Scottish Government on the role of local and community energy for a just transition in Scotland. Our work highlighted that local and community energy has the potential to unlock significant social and economic value for communities and places. However, history has shown us that energy transitions, such as the current shift to more local and community-based approaches, tend to exacerbate social inequalities. Those who could most benefit are often excluded from participating because their perspectives and needs are not adequately addressed.
To make sure our recommendations to Scottish Government included insights from voices that are typically unheard, we convened a People’s Panel on local and community energy. Twenty-two people from across Scotland took part, including from lower-income areas, people with disabilities, particularly those with mobility issues or additional energy needs in the home, people from ethnic minority and migrant backgrounds and those living in the private rented sector.
Over four evenings in May 2023, our panel helped us answer the question:
‘The way we use energy in our homes and communities is changing, with many communities and councils developing their own solutions. How should this be done so that it involves and benefits people in a fair way?’
The panel heard from a range of experts about how the energy system is changing, and the different types of local and community energy solutions being developed. They then worked together to develop and deliberate 20 principles for ensuring that local and community energy policies involve and benefit people in a fair way.
These principles set out that local and community energy must:
Provide clarity. For example, having clear definitions around how projects will work, agreements around roles and responsibilities, and transparency of budgets.
Set out goals and outcomes. Aims, success metrics, shared values and priorities should be established at the outset, and ensure that everyone benefits, with a fair distribution of benefits.
Enable equitable participation. This could be achieved through population-based awareness raising of community and local energy, engagement and promotion of projects and participation opportunities across the whole community, and routes for democratic governance structures.
Provide support and minimise risks. Support the community, for example in project engagement and delivery tasks, and help them manage and minimise risks to community members.
Support the local use of local energy. Enable energy generated locally to be used by the local community.
Enhance shared ownership. Support opportunities over the lifetime of the project and ensure companies don’t make excessive profits at the expense of the community.
Be supported by government. Ensure government provides conclusive and resourcing support for community and local energy, as well as support and accountability for councils.
The insights also fed into a report to Scottish Government, which made six high-level recommendations and 19 evidence-based recommendations for unlocking local and community energy in Scotland.