Energy, Green Spaces, and Local Food

Here at Community Energy Scotland we are trying to put together a project to look at funding the costs of a scheme like this for maybe 10-15 partner organisations to begin planning together for a local and fair renewable energy transition in food, gardening, and greenspace projects.

If you would like to be part of that, please follow the link to our survey and give us the information we need to get that first foot on the road!

Often the renewable energy sector is seen to be all about high tech solutions to decarbonising our energy use and, if not at odds with the local food movement, at least not connected to it. Community Energy Scotland works to transform the energy system in a way that is organic (all puns intended!), locally specific and of benefit to the people who live in Scotland.

Our energy model involves the creation of a Scotland-wide grassroots energy sector acting as a complimentary alternative to the commercial renewable energy sector. It is not our vision to replace the commercial engines for change, but rather to work alongside and partner creatively with commerce and grant-funding public sector organisations to enable the transformational change required to meet Net Zero goals by 2030. This community-led, grass-roots (yes, another pun!) approach means that very different diverse community energy projects can work alongside each other for common goals.

It then follows that if we want to be truly holistic and local in our approach to community benefits, in food, energy and greenspace, we could work together in small and local ways to improve and integrate our decarbonising. This is what I call the ‘Decarbonising Dividend’: the social positives from doing what we can to share our challenges and solutions as we attempt to reach the ‘Net Zero’ goals. Of course, the concept of ‘Net Zero’ is itself controversial and I’ll be writing more on that soon, but for food and energy in a local context, it is a useful idea – that decarbonising should be fair but also embrace difference. Dignity and inclusion are key values in a fair journey to a local net-zero carbon footprint. To keep those values at the fore, we can’t envisage a ‘one-size fits all’ approach, but rather, we need local and specific sustainability plans which are unique to each project or community group.

For the grower who could extend the season, or bring on a few more plants that benefit from heat, light or shelter, then a small-scale ‘behind the meter’ (that is not selling electricity to the grid as its primary purpose) energy project might bring down overheads and improve yields without adding to the overall carbon footprint of the greenspace or food project. It would be possible, perhaps, to add a car charger or to have ‘green gym’ dynamo-bikes in a set up like this and to also add to the information available to volunteers or customers about the different factors involved in a truly decarbonised community.

Some food projects and community gardens are already ‘off-grid’ in terms of not having electric power connected, it may be that a solution for them would be a small set-up which would entirely be a ‘private wire’ and so not connect to the grid at all. This avoids connection charges and would enable the volunteers and staff to use green electricity on-site without an electricity bill.

We are sure there are many more ideas than these to gather, so please, fill out our survey and we can work together for holistic, inclusive, decarbonised local communities.

Janet Foggie, CEO @CES

At Community Energy Scotland we value our team’s and communities’ opinions. Blogs are a chance for us, our members and guests to share personal opinions and expertise, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Community Energy Scotland as an organisation. Please note opinions may change and Community Energy Scotland does not offer any endorsements.

What is COP26?

COP26 is the 2021 United Nations climate change conference. COP stands for Conference of the Parties, and the summit will be attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994. The UN has held these conferences for almost 30 years, but this one is different – it’s happening right here in the UK. Based in Glasgow, the UK is taking a presidential role on the event which will run from 1-12 November 2021.

Why does it matter?

Historically, these can be landmark events – the Paris Agreement was born at COP21, bringing for the first time a commitment to keep a global rise in temperature below 2 degrees with every effort to keep it to 1.5 degrees. Climate change has never been higher on the agenda, and COP26 can be a pivotal point for international cooperation and domestic policy. 

Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to bring forward plans on how much they would reduce their emissions. These plans are known as Nationally Determined Contributions – NDCs. These would be updated every 5 years – and COP26 is the first update of these. 

The UK government has a huge focus on delivering a successful COP26. It has sought to lead the way, committing to ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution of 78% carbon reductions over 1990 levels by 2035. However, its plan to deliver this is significantly behind. The Climate Change Committee has repeatedly warned, ”It will not be possible to get close to meeting a net-zero target without engaging with people or by pursuing an approach that focuses only on supply-side changes”.

Where does community energy fit into COP26?

Current climate and recovery policy mostly focuses on big-cheque, business-focused, supply-side investment with nothing to support or stimulate collective action at individual or community or social business level. This is a potentially fatal flaw in the UK’s ‘world-leading’ policies for COP26. We can and must exploit the focus on COP and climate action, to get government recognition and support for community energy as essential to achieving net zero

Our objectives

  1. To ensure the Scottish Government champion leadership from people and communities as critical to achieving net zero. 
  2. To ensure Scottish Government promotes involvement of community energy business models in their net zero policies and programmes. 
  3. To move community energy further into the mainstream with key stakeholders (e.g. DNOs, funders, LAs, businesses) and in wider climate, social enterprise and energy movements.
  4. To leverage COP to provide an enhanced role for community energy and a clear pathway towards the 2045 vision.

COP26 will drive climate change up the agenda – use this as an opportunity to get new people involved in your project and to reach out to other people in your community. Have a think about what you need – could you use this as a chance to get more residents signed up to your project, more volunteers, or to make vital links with other local groups? There are lots of great ways to do this – check out just some of them in the Get Involved section. 

How can I/we get involved?

Community energy’s power lies in its people – that’s you! We need our members (and their elected representatives) to join the campaign. There are 129 MSPs – we want them all as community energy champions. You have hard-learned knowledge of community energy, where the government is succeeding, and where they’re failing. Beyond political campaigning, COP is a great opportunity to enhance focus on climate action, spreading your message beyond your normal circles and getting supporters actively involved in your projects and in doing their bit from home. 

Make your MSP a community energy champion

Your local MSP is your link to the Scottish parliament – you may not agree with everything they do but working with them is a great way to influence policy and raise the profile of your project. The first thing to do is write to your MSP. Find our handy guide here and a letter template here. Ask for a meeting or better still invite them for a site visit. This will be a great opportunity to showcase your work, and speak to them about what support you need. 

Share your progress

As COP gets closer, we are expecting more and more focus on climate change and innovative solutions in the media. So there has never been a better time to get in touch with the local and national media to help your work reach a wider audience. We have a range of resources to help you engage successfully with the media here.

Just as important is social media. It’s arguably the most important campaigning tool – and it’s free! There are lots of different platforms you can use, and different ways to get people engaged. We’ve put together a quick how-to for social media with a basic run-through of the platforms and a few tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your social media presence.

Build relations with your local authority and in your area

Local governments may be able to enable projects, through funding, investment, opportunities, connections and contracts etc. Councillors also need connecting with to lead political change and keep energy and climate change high up the agenda.

Hold a climate event

Events can do so much for you – they can bring your volunteers and members together and help you make links within your community. They can also be a great hook for media exposure or getting stakeholders down to visit your site. Alongside arranging an MSP visit, a good time to do this could be during Climate Fringe Week. It’s organised by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and will consist of hundreds of events in Scotland. This will help promote your event and hopefully get people along who might otherwise not be aware of your work!

Community Energy: State of the Sector 2021 report available now

The report, produced by Community Energy England, Community Energy Wales and Community Energy Scotland, and launched today, illustrates the progress of community energy in the UK in 2020. The ambitions and importance of community energy provide an additional important focus.

Written by our colleagues in Regen, from data contributed by a total of 424 community organisations, the report provides evidence-based recommendations to policy-makers and stakeholders on how the sector can meet its potential. It contains information aimed to help drive a committed and supportive wider environment in which community energy groups can thrive and further contribute to local economies and significant decarbonisation for the greater good.

This is the first year Scottish groups have taken part in the report and we are most grateful to the 72 Scottish community energy organisations that contributed their time and information to make this possible. We are delighted to confirm that Scotland demonstrates particularly strong power generation activity per capita, chiefly via wind and hydro power.

Located in the Outer Hebrides, Point and Sandwick’s community owned wind farm – the largest community owned windfarm in the UK and generating £900k a year for the local economy – features as a case-study in the report. The report also features an Orkney-based case study from the island of Eday.

In addition to providing information and inspiration for those who read it, this report will add to the collective voice of Scotland’s community energy groups in emphasising the undeniable evidence for greater national investment into the sector to build a more resilient nation as we head towards a net zero world.

The report is sponsored by Electricity Northwest, SP Energy Networks and Northern Powergrid.

Ofgem Significant Code Review consultation response

For several years, Ofgem has been reviewing network charges, which set out how the cost of running the transmission and distribution networks should be apportioned between large and small generators and customers. This summer, they launched a consultation on part of this process, the Access and Forward-looking Charges Significant Code Review, which sets out their ‘minded to’ positions.

Community Energy Scotland has been working through this consultation to determine the likely impacts on community generators in Scotland. Some of the moves are positive; Ofgem propose scrapping reinforcement costs related to demand connections, which will make it significantly more affordable to connect things like electric vehicle chargers and heat pumps, particularly in weak areas of the grid. They also plan to reduce the reinforcement charges for distributed generation, which again we support.

However, there are a number of key areas of concern for us and our members. Ofgem has indicated it is are minded to impose transmission charged (TNUoS) on small embedded generators over 1MW in size, which could add very significant costs to both new and existing community energy projects. Transmission costs in Scotland, particularly the islands, are already the highest in the UK, based on a flawed principle which incentivises generation near the main UK population centres (which Ofgem assumes to be the south of England). This may once have worked for centralised, fossil-fuel generation, but is clearly incompatible with distributed renewable energy generation, which needs to be located where the best natural resources are found. It is also incompatible with community generation; a Scottish community wind turbine can’t be located in Cornwall.

We’ve prepared a detailed response to the consultation, which is available here. We’d encourage community energy groups to submit a similar response by tomorrow, the 25th of August, using our template if you wish. Responses should be emailed directly to Ofgem at .

Community wind power more rewarding than commercial wind

Community owned wind farms have paid their communities 34 times more than commercial counterparts according to a June report produced by Aquatera Ltd on behalf of Point and Sandwick Development Trust.

The report compared nine community owned and four private wind farms in Scotland and found that returns from the community owned wind farms average £170,000 per installed MW per annum, far exceeding the community benefit payment industry standard of £5,000 per installed MW per annum.

This valuable study confirms what our sector has long-known; that the benefits from community energy vastly exceed those from privately-owned generation. The report reaffirms the importance of communities retaining control and ownership of renewable energy, to maximise the benefits to local people. I believe the same principles will apply to other areas that community groups are now engaging in, such as energy storage, EV car clubs and flexibility provision. This report shows renewable community energy is a vital part of our journey to an equal and fair Net Zero.

Janet Foggie, CEO, Community Energy Scotland

Community benefit payments have become well established in the realms of commercial wind farm development in the UK and have progressed over the last 30 years to a rate of £5,000 per installed MW per annum (a rate which has been adopted by the Scottish Government in their guidance on community benefits within the onshore renewable energy sector).

Unlike private wind farms, community-owned wind farms’ monetary contributions are based on the turbine’s financial performance instead of a set yearly stipend. For the purposes of the report Aquatera analysed the figures to get a £ per MW per annum basis.

One case study within the report showed that the 0.9 MW community-owned turbine on the Orkney island of Westray has returned to the community approximately £299,057 per MW per annum and is expected to contribute £6.8 million to the community over its 25-year lifespan.

We are very please to have been able to contribute to this groundbreaking research into the tremendous economic impact of community energy. We are just one of a number of community wind farms in the Western Isles which together represent over £30 million of capital investment and which is returning a net income of £2 million a year into good causes in the local economy.

Community energy punches way above its weight in financial and economic terms and if governments really want to ‘level-up’ and to spread the benefits of the green economy to all parts of the country, then they need to make community energy a central pillar of their climate policy and not just a ‘nice-to-have’.

Norman Mackenzie, Chairman of Point and Sandwick Trust, which owns the UK’s largest community wind farm

Private wind farm community benefit payments (separate from the normal operational benefits like the generation of local jobs) can be a valuable source of income for communities located near renewable developments. Some private developers also offer an opportunity for the local community to invest in the development and, in return, receive a share of the profits generated.

Results from this report, however, highlight the obvious increased long-term financial benefit that communities who own and operate their own wind farm have experienced.

Ameena Camps

Dr Ameena Camps, Project Delivery Manager, a project professional; with a PhD in carbon capture and storage, and international experience in energy and climate change mitigation technologies working across industry, government, community and academic sectors; who recently successfully delivered Uist Wind: a challenging £3.5 million renewable energy community benefit project, and is currently developing a number of projects including the Net Zero Environmental Community Hub in Lochmaddy.

She has lived and worked in Uist for over 5 years across a number of roles at Cothrom and Tagsa Uibhist supporting delivery of the Keep Scotland Beautiful Grow your own Community project; at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar as the OH Leader Development Officer for Uist & Barra and shortly as a Planning Officer.

Ameena works for North Uist Development Company, but she is representing Barra & Vatersay Community Ltd (Coimhearsnachd Bharraidh agus Bhatarsaidh Ltd) on the CES Board.

Next Steps: One year on

Community Energy Scotland did not sit idle through the COVID-19 pandemic. A year ago today, we published our ‘Next Steps’ document which sets out a vision for Scotland in 2025:

‘The decentralised energy system has enabled the growth of a new tier of local energy suppliers who are contributing to a wider process of economic localisation, retaining more value in local communities and helping to underpin a renaissance of community life. Local production and supply of essential goods and services – the foundations for a good quality of life and resilience – is widespread, with safe and sustainable local transport options, powered by local energy. … We have achieved a robust and sustainable system, with high level of public participation, awareness and contribution to decision-making.’

Of course, in July 2020 we could not see the second wave of COVID-19 that was to hit by Christmas, nor the speed with which the Delta Variant would travel the globe. COVID-19 has hit harder and with a deeper bite than we could have imagined. Nurseries, schools, universities, and workplaces have all been closed far longer than was initially predicted. Yet some of the positives we saw emerging in July 2020 have indeed stayed the course, there has been increased community effort and a caring for our neighbours that has got many people through the pandemic more safely than we might have imagined. The Scottish Government produced a report by the summer of 2020, which showed that pre-existing inequalities affected the impact of COVID-19 on a variety of people who live in Scotland; ‘It is now clear from emerging evidence that the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis arising from the direct and indirect effects of contracting the illness, as well as the lockdown measures put in place to control spread of the virus, are significant and unequal’. Housing, fuel poverty and food insecurity being the three biggest issues cited, alongside, racial inequalities, a rise in domestic abuse and the collapse of some job sectors such as tourism, retail and entertainment/the arts.

Throughout the crisis of 2020-21, there has been an acknowledged connection between fuel poverty and food insecurity, in tackling one, we need to tackle the other. Nourish Scotland have been campaigning hard for a ‘Right To Food’ we, at Community Energy Scotland, are aware that food insecurity cannot be solved alone. It must also mean enabling people to have the ability to cook at home, to live in warm, sustainable, housing and to travel within a Net Zero society. For energy, just as for food, the role of the community level organisation is key:

Community groups can play a number of key roles in the energy transition more effectively than the private or public sectors. They can act as trusted intermediaries, offering advice and support on energy efficiency; organise collective bulk-buying and retrofit schemes; coordinate peer-to-peer trading of electricity; and provide local aggregation platforms for flexibility; start up 11 community EV car clubs and e-bike rental schemes; and help to democratise the energy system. These are all essential areas to tackle as we transition to a low-carbon and decentralised energy model.’

CES Next Steps, page 10

We also need structural, legislative and regulatory support for communities to be the key players we perceive them to be in the journey to Net Zero. Both the Westminster Government and the Scottish Government have set ambitious Net Zero targets. To reach them, we need a much higher level of public awareness and much greater public action which would be underpinned by individual behaviour change. The Next Steps report outlines five main areas where progress could be made, from Local Energy Innovation Zones, to Energy Demand Reduction, Local Supply, Flexibility, Transport and Strengthening Communities. We need all five if we are going to reach Net Zero, bring people along with us on that journey, and create thriving local communities where foodbanks and fuel poverty are a thing of the past.

Janet Foggie, CEO @CES

At Community Energy Scotland we value our team’s and communities’ opinions. Blogs are a chance for us, our members and guests to share personal opinions and expertise, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Community Energy Scotland as an organisation. Please note opinions may change and Community Energy Scotland does not offer any endorsements.

Heat Smart Orkney: an award winning community project

In 2016, the Heat Smart Orkney (HSO) project received £1.28 million from the Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund, providing the Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre Development Trust (REWDT) in Orkney, and its support partner, Community Energy Scotland, with the opportunity to develop the project to mitigate effects of the curtailment of wind energy generation being experienced by the RE&W Community Turbine located on Rousay.

The turbine provides revenue to the Development Trust which supports its residents through community projects and initiatives.

Megaflo hot water cylinder installed

Secondary heating devices such as Megaflo hot water cylinders and Dimplex Quantum storage heaters were installed into homes based within “Zone 1“ of the Orkney electricity grid (see image below). The grid controls the local generators and at times of marginal curtailment of the REW generator, these devices were switched on using smart controls. This enabled local demand-side management to charge the devices and help keep the turbine producing. When the turbine received a signal to either stop or resume working as normal the smart controls switched the household devices off.

The aim of the project was to:

  • address the issue of fuel poverty by improving systems and supplementing the cost of the heating provided through the new devices by rebating householders for the energy used;
  • prove a commercially-scalable model for this supplemental smart heating and curtailment abatement (HSO Ltd) live on the local grid, whilst respecting the existing commercial arrangements of the Orkney Active Network Management (ANM) system, and not affect other essential grid activities such as the existing national demand-side management for off-peak heating;
  • respect the technically sensitive nature of the Orkney electricity grid, and to focus on aggregation technology deployed in a prudent, passive but responsive and smart manner to effectively decouple demand-side management actions from critical network management;
  • be developed, run, and led by and in collaboration with other grassroots, socially responsible organisations to retain and socialise value, share knowledge with our partners to develop practical ways to help address fuel poverty, and overall develop the wellbeing, resilience, and self-sufficiency of our communities, in addition to tackling carbon reduction.

HSO Ltd installed a total of 112 devices over the 7-island group covered in Zone 1.

Map of Orkney & Number of Households Participating in the HSO Project (yellow areas)

  • Rousay 40
  • Egilsay 2
  • Wyre 1
  • Mainland 14
  • Eday 3
  • Westray 9
  • Papa Westray 3

It had its challenges!

HSO Ltd had to adapt its service and care to meet these challenges:

  • Logistics – installing equipment over the 7 islands, organising equipment and resources; dealing with ferry timetables, refits, bad weather and tourist demands etc;  pressure when trying to meet timing deadlines set by the milestones of the Local Energy Scotland award;
  • Poor internet connections – HSO systems are dependent on the ability to use the homeowner’s broadband to provide the internet connection needed to operate the smart switching of the devices on and off.  With the poor connectivity experienced by homeowners in Orkney and the fragile state our internet system, HSO Ltd had to seek alternative options for the project.  Our contractors used internet boosters and TP Links to improve the situation and for many this proved useful. Others required alternative 4G links;
  • Staff resources – HSO Ltd  is staffed by a part time workforce. This at times caused limitations on meeting the specific deadlines with regard to its contractors.  Due to our geographical location, we have a limited pool of specialised staff and HSO Ltd is not always in the position to replace or hire in additional help to meet specific needs;
  • Types of properties available within the Orkney housing stock;
  • Ageing heating systems;
  • Ageing household electrical systems
  • Lack of curtailment – 2019 saw HSO Ltd begin to prove its business model with most households connected to the aggregator system.  However, during this time many of the wind turbines in Orkney underwent long term maintenance thus reducing the amount of curtailment experienced by the Rousay Community turbine. This lack of available curtailment has continued for considerable time in key periods since, due mostly to wider grid/cable failures. HSO Ltd has therefore seen the level of rebates and the amount of heating going through its devices diminished, resulting in increased negative reactions from some in the community. These unfortunate events also undermine the ability to clearly establish the future business and revenue cases needed to work towards HSO Ltd.’s plans to encourage investment by others to join the scheme after the demonstration phase.

And significant successes!

  • HSO Ltd has proven that smart switching used by the project has not had a detrimental effect on the ANM and has not interfered with the commercial demand-side management already available;
  • The HSO Project has shown aggregated smart demand side management flexibility in the ‘real world’ and has been the forerunner, and both catalyst and instigator for further larger projects like the SMILE project and ReFLEX initiative and the development of the TraDER locally and fed into and shaped this area nationally to create the sector as it develops in the next 2-5 years;
  • HSO Ltd is self-funded, has provided employment and opportunity within our community for a sustained period and the HSO system and the HSO Ltd staff have provided a service, gained significant learning, and transferrable skills directly to improve activity in the subsequent SMILE and ReFLEX projects, providing the company with the income to continue trading well beyond the initial funding period;
  • Scottish Green Energy Award 2020 – Last year HSO Ltd was awarded the SGEA for “Best Community Project”!

Over 70 properties benefited from this project. Energy fuels across project properties saw a total drop, due to displacement or efficiency measures, of 4,700 litres of oil; 8,000kg of coal and wood; and 20.4MWh of electricity. However, the benefits went beyond being able to reduce fuel costs and increase generation, including: energy advice; increased sense of ownership of local energy; increased revenue for community projects; employment for 3 isle residents.

A key aim of HSO was to reduce fuel poverty. A rebate compensated homeowners for the additional power used in their home at a higher cost than the alternative provision of heat (oil, coal, etc). Due to its success, the rebate rate was doubled to promote further incentive.

We are proud to be a partner with HSO Ltd and absolutely delighted that the staff and volunteers have been formally recognised for their hard work, passion and dedication to this project.

Peter Long, Project Manager, Community Energy Scotland

Blog written with information provided by Gill Wigley, Project Manager @Heat Smart Orkney Limited

At Community Energy Scotland we value our team’s and communities’ opinions. Blogs are a chance for us, our members and guests to share personal opinions and expertise, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Community Energy Scotland as an organisation. Please note opinions may change and Community Energy Scotland does not offer any endorsements.

Looking long term: a vision of a thriving community energy sector

A reinvented community energy sector could play a key role in making the net zero transition a socially just one; but it will need support from policy.

Looking long term

Today, the dominant activity in UK community energy – at least in terms of what brings in money – is renewable electricity generation, at small and medium scales. But getting new projects of this sort up and running has been much harder since the closure of the Feed-in Tariff scheme two years ago.

Now obviously, community energy groups are NOT just in it for the money, and they’re not strangers to working for free! Nevertheless, spending power is, well, power. You can use it to pay staff, supporting the local economy and ensuring your organisation survives; to support other local groups; or build affordable housing. So the question arises – where will it come from in the future?  And not just next month, or next year, but in the longer term?

Here is where the current talk in energy policy circles, of the future energy system being decentralised, decarbonised, and ‘consumer’ centred, seems to offer bright prospects to community energy. So, amid the end-of-FITs gloom, we brought practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders together to scope out a hopeful long term vision. We asked them to picture a future where community energy is thriving. What do you see community energy groups doing? How are they organised? And crucially: who needs to do what to make it happen?

Expanded and diversified

The key message is that community energy could become much more than electricity generation, but could spread into all parts of the energy system. Yes they would still generate electricity – but they would sell it to local customers as well as national wholesalers, and they would trade flexible demand on behalf of local residents. They would using pricing power and technical know-how to address fuel poverty and the digital divide. Some would run ‘mixed mobility’ services – buses, car clubs and more; or heat networks in off-gas-grid areas and new-build developments. Some organisations might focus on one or two complementary activities – others might embrace many, as illustrated in our graphic. But through this technological change, the focus is always on social and environmental outcomes.

Achieving this would require change in the shape and scale of community energy – as shown in the graphic. The boundaries of the sector might become ‘fuzzy’, with partnerships with other community groups, housing bodies and local authorities more common.

We also saw potential for more partnerships with other community energy groups across multiple localities, in a member-controlled Confederation. This would be a ‘coop of coops’ style organisation, a bit like Energy4All or the emerging Big Solar Coop, but on an even larger scale. Its purpose would be to help resolve the perennial tension between achieving economies of scale, and preserving local groups’ roots in their communities. This would require a shift in thinking for the sector, perhaps. But, with E4A and others (also e.g. Communities for Renewables) paving the way, more evolution than revolution.

Making it happen

If this vision sounds good, the big question is: how to make it happen? Community energy activists have plenty of experience of learning new technologies and adapting to change. This, and their skills in partnership working, will be called on increasingly in the future. But there will need to be policy changes too. The list is long, but includes central government regulating to give smaller players a better chance of surviving the energy market; and governments from devolved to regional to local levels purchasing from and investing in community energy.

Yet policymakers may see the sector as inevitably small, whose role in the energy transition is more about cultural change than operational delivery. Of course, community energy has long argued that it is about ‘more than megawatts’. But our vision shows the sector with a significant operational role. How to convince the policymakers that this is desirable – and feasible?

Firstly, ideas matter; and the concept of ‘Just Transition’ could be important. Scotland launched its own Just Transition Commission last year. Wales has had a Wellbeing of Future Generations Act for some time. Some might argue that a techno-transition could be managed top-down. But surely an inclusive and just energy transition needs, not just grassroots participation, but grassroots power and ownership?

Secondly, dare we say it, policymakers could be directed to look to Europe. Several countries have large, operationally-focussed community and cooperative energy sectors. Why can’t the UK?

Finally, evidence of the benefits of community energy is important. I’m looking forward to reading the latest research on this from CAG Consultants, launched in Community Energy Fortnight – and hope this can play a part in setting us on the road to a thriving future for community energy.

This blog summarises a newly published academic paper in the journal Energy Research and Social Science. Please contact Dr Tim Braunholtz-Speight for a copy or available to download at

Dr Tim Braunholtz-Speight, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester – Guest blog

At Community Energy Scotland we value our team’s and communities’ opinions. Blogs are a chance for us, our members and guests to share personal opinions and expertise, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Community Energy Scotland as an organisation. Please note opinions may change and Community Energy Scotland does not offer any endorsements.

The Power behind Community Energy

People. Preserving everything worthwhile and valuable to our human society is down to us, its people.

Many who have already been part of any kind of community-led action know very well what the successes and pitfalls mean, what they feel like, and how they affect family, friends and community.

Communities driving their own energy and decarbonisation plans understand more than most, how the success, or threat of failure, can mean the very existence, or not, of an otherwise resilient population.  We know energy is a basic human need, required in many forms. Harnessing and sharing knowledge and insight, without leaving anyone behind, is acquired through friendships, acquaintances, experience, and the ability to collaborate well at grass-roots and professional levels.

The scale and scope of the energy a community wants to manage always require these bonds and qualities to varying degrees. There will be inevitable gaps in expertise and practice, however as the drive and progress of community energy, in all its forms, grows stronger, these gaps are getting smaller.

Some gaps are harder to plug than others. Those neighbours and friends who are harder to reach, who may even live on the margins of society, also have a right to a say and to share their ideas. The ability to tap into our thoughts can be challenging for many reasons, however we ignore unexplored resources in our community at our peril. As well as embracing the more marginalised members of our communities to bring them with us, there is a hidden well of ideas and information to be discovered from our sometimes-forgotten neighbours.

The year 2020 made communication challenging for many of us and further isolated some immeasurably. There has never been a more important time than now to stop and speak over that gate or wall, get talking over that friendly cuppa or pint, ensure that no-one is being left behind, and that everyone’s needs and ideas are being sought out and heard.

People are powerful: Every. Single. One of us.

Cath Curd, Orkney office management & administration officer @CES

At Community Energy Scotland we value our team’s and communities’ opinions. Blogs are a chance for us, our members and guests to share personal opinions and expertise, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Community Energy Scotland as an organisation. Please note opinions may change and Community Energy Scotland does not offer any endorsements.