We’re at a turning point in developing true community energy in the UK.
For too long, community energy has been a policy footnote, with all the focus on big generators and individual households
all but ignoring the potential of communities to play a key role. Now, however, communities are coming together to take more control of the energy they use
both to cut their gas and electricity bills and to help combat climate change. Already there have been more than 5,000 groups in the UK working to transform how their community uses energy. From collective switching schemes helping people buy energy more cheaply to community-owned wind farms generating local jobs and revenue, and from neighbourhoods joining forces to insulate their homes to community advice schemes helping vulnerable consumers save energy and money, community energy comes in a wide variety of forms and sizes. So this Strategy aims to help these existing groups grow and to inspire more to set up and expand. We want to tap
into the enthusiasm and commitment that’s so evident in community
groups across the country
whether it’s for helping people struggling with energy bills or for
playing a part in the global race to decarbonise our society.
While the UK’s community energy
sector is relatively small today compared to Germany’s or Denmark’s, th
e evidence we have gathered for this Strategy illustrates the huge potential of community energy here. On generating electricity, for example, estimates suggest that schemes involving local communities could supply enough electricity for 1 million homes by 2020, if we get the support right. In a recent survey, 42% of people said that they would be interested in taking part in community energy if they could save money on their energy bills.
We want to play to the advantages that community-based action offers energy and climate change policy. Communities are often more effective in reaching the vulnerable in society and may be more trusted by sceptical consumers. They are better placed to maximise the benefits of certain renewable technologies, such as district heat networks, and can gain wider benefits such as local economic regeneration and a stronger sense of community. Throughout this Strategy we have tried to identify where communities have a genuine advantage or can provide something extra.
Research for DECC, January 2014