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