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.

Blog by Janet Foggie, CEO @CES

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;
  • Aging heating systems;
  • Aging 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

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.

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, available to download free until August 5th at

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

The Power behind Community Energy

People. 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

Old and Cold – what can be done?

Daughter No 1 accused me of nerding out on this so it’s obviously a topic for a blog.

We live in an old stone house in the north of Scotland dating from around 1900. It’s a lovely house and the quality of build and materials is very good.

But so is the level of ventilation and it seems clear to us that, unlike today, people then didn’t spend a lot of time sitting around indoors expecting to be kept warm. But what we do to improve the heat retention capability of old houses like ours is, err… a hot topic just now, one which brings together the need to reduce carbon emissions, use less energy, control bills, stay warm and healthy and look after the fabric of our old homes.

So – what to do?

Our house has a fairly standard stone construction of that era. Going from the outside in, we have a thick sandstone wall, a ventilation gap (usually at least 5cm wide) then lath and plaster forming the inside wall. Ground floors are suspended on joists with under floor vents. The whole living space is, in effect, surrounded by a ventilation envelop, going from the underfloor, behind the walls up to the loft. This means that there are not really any damp areas as the whole fabric is very ‘breathable’ meaning water vapour can easily travel through the walls and stone so there is little condensation.

But, despite the thick stone walls, it needs a lot of heat to keep it warm in the winter and is very sensitive to outside temperature changes. Having lived with this for over 20 year with just loft insulation in place, we decided it was time to do some more serious insulation retrofit, but wanted to do this in a way which doesn’t wreck the internal features or reduce the breathability of the building fabric. This is going to be a long-term project: step one is putting in underfloor insulation in the front rooms.

So here’s what I’ve done so far – and bear in mind I’m an unskilled householder albeit one who has always enjoyed construction & DIY stuff.

Step one was to pull out and re-read my copy of The Pebble Trusts’ Sustainable Renovation Guide which has a useful section on underfloor insulation and which I’ve sought to follow.

In a nutshell, the approach involves lifting the floorboards, laying a wind tight but breathable membrane between the joists, filling it with insulation, covering it with membrane then putting back the floorboards. There’s no crawl space so insulation could only be fitted from above.

Here’s how it’s worked in practice…. [Note: I was well aware of the location of services (cables, pipes, drains…) beforehand]

Lifting the floorboards

The old pine floorboards were not in a very good condition as a number had been lifted & split before and were quite gappy. But they had about 2 million old nails in them and were difficult to lift. The only way to do this was to use a long pry bar at the joists and, where possible, shorten the lengths by sawing the boards between the joists. I was hoping to re-use the boards but this proved impossible (although I’ve kept ones that were largely intact for use elsewhere).

Fixing issues
Laying the membrane and insulation

When digging around in an old house you have to expect to find some previously unseen issues. This pic shows that the wooden plates on which the joists rest were rotten in places so I replaced these where necessary. These pics show the rotten wood removed and then the joists resting on new plates underneath over damp proof strips. You can also see the lath and plaster wall construction and the lath battens onto which the skirting board was fixed – all in good shape. One thing that is striking is the quality of the wood in these old houses – very solid and still fine over a 100 years later…provided it has been well ventilated.

The next step was to lay the membrane to hold the insulation. This has to be fixed onto the joists to stop it from sagging down or coming away from the joists and leaving a cold gap. The insulation could then be put in. I used ‘Thermofloc’ cellulose insulation, which is made from recycled paper. It comes in 12kg bags and needs to be broken up as it’s ‘clumpy’. I did this with a garden rake on a piece of plywood.

The next two pics show the membrane in place (including behind the skirting) and the insulation in the joists gaps. In doing it this way I’ve made sure there remains ventilation below the joists and behind the lath and plaster.

I had to remove all the old nails from the joists but other than that the joists were all good. I had a large piece of board that I stood on whilst doing this, to avoid falling between the joists and ripping off the membrane, which would have been disheartening.

Next, I laid a sheet of membrane on top then laid new floorboards (after leaving them for a couple of weeks to acclimatise). An alternative would have been to have laid OSB and then underlay & carpet.

Insulation in place with top membrane; floorboards acclimatising

Floorboards fitted and freshly oiled with skirting replaced

Overall this has been relatively straightforward but quite hard work at times (such as when lifting floorboards and laying the insulation).

Unfortunately the weather has been really warm and sunny so I can’t tell yet whether it will have made any difference to the room’s heat retention….reporting on that will have to wait until winter.

Materials, Costs and Time

Floorboard removal & installation of membrane and insulation up to the point of re-flooring took about 7 days. Installing floorboards took about 5 days. The most time-consuming & fiddly jobs were nail removal, fixing battens to hold the membrane against the joists & taping the membrane up to the lath and plaster (which involved taking off and in some cases replacing the skirting boards).

Materials and costs were as follows:

Constivap airtight membrane ( 2 rolls, 1 used so far)£247
Proclima Tescon Vana tape£22.50
Proclima Duplex tape (for fixing membrane sheets together) £12.40
Thermofloc cellulose insulation (12kg bags) x 25    (12 used so far)£354
Total incl VAT£889

I ordered the floorboards separately:

Unfinished solid oak floorboards 25 sq m £1,023
KUNOS natural oil sealer, 2 cans £49.24
Proclima tape (2 further rolls)£28.70
Total incl VAT£1320.18

I had to pay a further carriage charge of about £100 for the floorboards – if I had planned it a bit better I probably could have reduced that! I ordered all materials from Ecomerchant, who were prompt & efficient with delivery.

Nicholas Gubbins – guest blog – previously CEO @CES

Community Energy in Scotland: State of the Sector 2021

Register here for the UK launch (23rd June) and Scottish panel discussion (2nd July)

Benny Talbot is Innovation Development Manager at CES and works on the development of new Local Energy Economies projects as well as our work with our partners in CEE and CEW. This blog is his personal view of our part in the State of the Sector Report.

On the 23rd June, the UK Community Energy State of the Sector 2021 Report will be launched. It’s been a mammoth task, and wouldn’t have been possible without the hundreds of hours volunteered by the 424 groups (including 72 in Scotland) featured in the report; all of which was collated and organised by our own staff at CES, and our colleagues in England and Wales, who all went the extra mile to see the work done.

Now, the finished report finally sits here in my inbox. This was the first time that Community Energy Scotland have joined forces with Community Energy England and Wales. The underlying data will form the definitive source on community energy across the UK, and the report will underpin future lobbying efforts in Westminster and Holyrood. But for me, the most important thing about this report is that it gives us a chance to step back, look at the big picture, and think about where we’re at.

The report won’t be published until our launch on the 23rd, so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little longer to see all the details; but at least as interesting as the figures themselves are the questions that they raise:

National comparisons

By setting data out for England, Scotland, and Wales alongside one another, the report invites us to compare the state of the sector in each of the nations. One things that’s immediately apparent is how different the generation technology mix is in England (virtually all solar PV) to Scotland (virtually all wind and hydro). There are some obvious reasons for this; climate, and planning restrictions on wind in England to name but two. But it does make me wonder – is Scottish solar resource really as bad as these low deployment levels would suggest?

Meanwhile, Scotland has a clear lead over England and Wales in terms of community energy deployment per capita, but with very low deployment in Scotland in 2021 this gap appears to be closing. Why is that? Could it be linked to the fact that almost all new community generation built in 2021 was solar PV?  And what can we do in Scotland to regain our momentum?

Policy implications

It’s clear from the report that Scottish government support, via CARES and other schemes, is significantly ahead of that available in England. But it is Wales, not Scotland, where new government support measures are most clearly being developed; and criticisms that the English support schemes focus on funding contractors rather than the community groups themselves, and lack support for early stage community capacity building will sadly be all too familiar to Scottish ears.

But the bulk of energy policy is reserved to Westminster, and the real issue is the string of recent decisions that have gouged the business case for community energy everywhere in the UK. So its more important than ever that community groups in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland join forces in pushing for the changes we need. 

The state of the sector report tackles this head on, drawing on the momentum of the Environmental Audit Committee’s recent letter to Kwasi Kwarteng to set out the policy changes required for our movement to reach its full potential.

Green renewal

This hasn’t been an easy year for any of us, and the report shows that in the reduced level MW capacity of new projects deployed during the pandemic. On the other hand, it also shows how local anchor groups have stepped up, changing their activities and providing emergency support at short notice when the pandemic struck.

Facing difficulties in launching new generation projects, but ever more aware of the need for Net Zero, the state of the sector also shows groups continuing to branch out. A community energy ecosystem in waiting is developing, with new projects planned and underway in low carbon heat, transport, flexibility and energy efficiency. What is now needed is the policy support to unleash this at scale, so we really can build back better in the face of our current crises.

Want to find out more? Attend the UK launch event on 23rd of June, and/or our discussion on the state of the sector in Scotland on 2nd July.

Benny Talbot, Innovation Development Manager @CES

Do we have the Energy?

Blog by Janet Foggie – Community Energy Scotland CEO

How often have we looked at our calendars and wondered about an upcoming event whether or not we have the energy to meet that commitment? Whether it is a family get together or a fun day out sometimes we just need to get up the energy to go and do it.

Here at Community Energy Scotland this Community Energy Fortnight (14th to 27th June) we are asking everyone in Scotland, ‘Do we have the Energy to get to Net Zero?’ Community Energy takes all kinds of energy; the organisational energy to get something started, the personal energy to see it through, and the relational energy to get a community working together.

Our 420 Members have all committed their energy to creating Community Renewable Energy projects, or to reducing energy demand in their areas. Some of those projects are still just good ideas barely put onto paper, and some are up and running windfarms or solar projects – we are also everywhere in between, and I know our Members would say there are days when the energy might flag, when planning applications and technical issues might slow down our projects or make us rethink. It is a long slow process and it takes time and commitment.

But on those days, it is good to remember the goal – to have a carbon neutral Scotland by 2045. Yes! And for Community Energy Scotland, as part of that bigger goal, our own first charitable aim as an organisation, which is to enable and support thriving Community Energy and Decarbonisation Projects which benefit people in their local areas while also creating jobs in clean renewable energy. We, also need to look together at the ways we can reduce our demand for energy, whether that is electricity, oil or gas, so we want to support and work with projects that reduce demand in creative ways too.

We are promoting Community Renewable Energy and Decarbonisation everywhere we can, because we believe we do have the energy to achieve a cleaner, greener, more local Scotland. Our second charitable aim is to reduce fuel poverty and alleviate all other forms of poverty. Community Energy Projects often use their resources to invest in their communities and over this fortnight we will be sharing all sorts of remarkable ways communities have investigated and applied solutions to reduce poverty or increase dignity in their local areas.

And here’s a thought – often those commitments, the ones we need to summon up the energy to go to… often, they are the most energising of all. Research shows that one of our deepest forms of happiness is ‘compassion satisfaction’ – the happiness we get from being a community that cares.

Here at Community Energy Scotland we have the Energy, and we think there’s a lot more people out there who have the energy too. So join us as a Member or Supporter, follow us on Twitter, on Facebook and on LinkdIn and get started wherever you are, building up your community’s energy to get to net zero with us.