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

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.

Introducing Community Energy Fortnight! 14-27 June 2021

Community Energy (CE) Fortnight is an awareness-raising programme that has been adopted by Community Energy England in recent years and this year Community Energy Scotland and Community Energy Wales are also embracing the initiative!  We hope to host the programme in Scotland every year to provide a beneficial collective platform for community groups and to raise awareness of Community Energy in the public and policy domains.

This year there is an additional aim to raise the profile of community energy in the wider public arena ahead of COP26.

CE Fortnight has traditionally been a rallying cry to the sector to make use of its platform in extolling the virtues of all aspects of community energy. This year is no different and we are inviting you to share the energy-related benefits and wins – big and small – that you have experienced in your community. It could be from any part of a project including scoping at the very start, the planning stage or any point throughout it. You may be working on something new, and if so, put it out there!

You might have virtual tours, videos, podcasts, blogs or images. The 2021 theme is #WeThePower and we hope you will use this hashtag to connect with other community energy enthusiasts via social media. Please add other CE-related hashtags if there’s space in your message.

Use #WeThePower and #CEF2021 to share stories on social media about why you are passionate about community energy, community energy’s role in rebuilding a better world and your ambitions for the future! This covid crisis has reinforced the importance of community strength and we should use this time to explore how to build back better and stronger!

Remember to tag our accounts on Twitter and Facebook and make sure you let us know about your material so we can promote it.

Some suggested posts are:

  • Across Scotland and the UK, communities are working together to combat fuel poverty #CEF2021 #WeThePower
  • We’ve been working to alleviate the impact of COVID19, read our story here *insert link to your website, or send us your story so we can host it for you!* #CEF2021 #WeThePower
  • Community energy helps reduce energy bills, supports the local economy & cuts CO2 emissions #CEF2021 #WeThePower
  • What lessons have Scotland’s community energy organisations learned from COVID19? Share your story with us! #CEF2021 #WeThePower
  • Why are you passionate about community energy and what are the positive impacts of it? #CEF2021 #WeThePower
  • What are your organisation’s community energy ambitions for the next decade? #CEF2021 #WeThePower
  • Community energy in the UK could contribute 3000MW, power 1.3 million homes, create 5000 jobs, save 1 million tones of CO2 emissions and add over £1 billion to the economy according to WPI modelling #CEF2021 #WeThePower

Outer Hebrides to feature in international research into local energy innovation

We are delighted to announce that Community Energy Scotland are one of two Scottish partners supporting the Outer Hebrides in a multi-national research project putting local people at the heart of delivering a low carbon future for their communities.

The Responsible Research and Innovation Policy Experimentations for Energy Transition project, RIPEET, is looking at the impacts of bringing together communities, businesses, academia, government, and the environmental sector to deliver sustainable energy solutions.

The project is being funded from the EU’s largest ever Research and Innovation programme, the €80bn Horizon 2020. As well as the Highlands and Islands, RIPEET is working with communities in Extremadura in Spain, and Ostrobothnia in Finland. We will be working closely with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the second Scottish partner in the project.

“The plan is to bring together a wide range of people in a ‘Transition Lab’. The participants will explore what ideal regional energy systems would look like locally in 15-20 years’ time. Then, what’s needed to achieve that energy vision: including energy needs; the barriers; and how to kickstart action to deliver the vision.”

Sarah Marshall, senior project manager at HIE

“The Outer Hebrides Lab will be able to actively shape and create change. RIPEET includes €50,000 funding for an ‘open call’ for solutions to meet an identified regional energy need. This might be a social or technological innovation, the establishment of an organisation, or a piece of research as selected by the stakeholders.”

Matthew Logan, CES Energy in Motion Development Officer, based in the Western Isles

Throughout the project, research will be carried out to understand what common policies, drivers and processes are needed to promote the regional transition to low carbon energy. The project is starting this year and will run until February 2024.

The international RIPEET project team comprises representatives from 11 experienced organisations from seven European countries, led by the Austrian Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI).

“Our aim is to provide responsible and place-based research on energy transition innovation and delivery models, learning from the experiences of the three Transition Labs as they explore options, barriers and solutions in their local regions.”

Wolfgang Haider, RIPEET Coordination Team at the Centre for Social Innovation in Vienna

Together with HIE, we are currently compiling a list of relevant stakeholders interested in taking part in the project.

New Build Heat Standard: Our consultation response

The New Build Heat Standard consultation requires new buildings consented from 2024 to use heating systems with zero direct emissions. CES put forward the view that action in this area is long overdue. The construction sector, and housing developers in particular, have been reluctant to take action in this area and the Scottish Government have been too too slow in enforcing higher standards. Low carbon heating systems are a proven technology but this must be accompanied by higher standards of energy efficiency if we are to reduce levels of fuel poverty and total energy costs for consumers.

Heat in Buildings strategy consultation: Our response

The Draft Heat in Buildings Strategy sets out the Scottish Government’s proposed actions for transforming buildings and the systems that supply their heat, ensuring a transition to zero emissions by 2045. We welcome the long-term ambition and the comprehensive proposals, and recognise the intent to accelerate the timetable for action but questions remain about whether these go far enough.

The proposals highlight the considerable challenges ahead particularly around reconciling the cost of transitioning to low carbon heating systems and the financial burden this will place on many households already in fuel poverty, but it is difficult to see how the Scottish Government’s short-term targets will be met within the timescales proposed and with the level of financial support being offered.

Earth Day Carbon Calculator from ReFLEX Orkney

Today, we’re pleased to announce that the ReFLEX Orkney project has launched a new carbon calculator to help the Orkney community estimate its carbon footprint and monitor it over time.

The carbon calculator has been designed specifically for individuals and households in Orkney, using Orkney specific calculations where possible. It is available for anyone to use but note it may not be as reflective of carbon footprints for those that live elsewhere.

The calculator covers household energy, diet, consumables and travel and should take around 10 minutes to complete.

Once all questions have been answered, ReFLEX will calculate your personal or household carbon footprint, providing a breakdown of different sectors to indicate the biggest contributors, and a comparison to UK and global averages.

“Understanding our carbon footprint and the impact of our actions and consumption on climate change can help motivate people, business and governments to take action and reduce our carbon emissions.”

Gareth Davies, MD of Aquatera, ReFLEX partner responsible for developing the carbon calculator.

State of the Sector survey 2021

The State of the Sector is both an annual report and the most comprehensive dataset on community energy in the UK. We’re really excited because this is the first year that Community Energy Scotland have joined Community Energy England and Wales in conducting the survey. However, because this is the first time for us, the survey holds no backup data on previous projects in Scotland. This means that, to capture the full spectrum and impact of community energy groups across Scotland, it’s vital that as many Scottish community groups as possible respond to the survey – Please don’t let your group be missed out!
 
Responses are welcomed across all projects, from electricity generation to low carbon transport activities, and everything in between. The data will be used to assess the wide range of impacts that community energy organisations are having in the journey to net zero carbon. The results will be analysed and shared in a UK wide report, as well as a report on the state of the sector in Wales (thanks to funding by Welsh Government) to be launched later in the spring.

Previous reports have been used by local and national government, network operators, MPs, campaigning and environmental organisations, and many other organisations within the sector itself. The data underpins the work of Community Energy England, Scotland and Wales to support the sector and lobby for more supportive policies. We need your input to continue this impact. Responses you provide this year will be added to previous years’ data to form a comprehensive picture of the progress and impact of the incredible work happening across the community energy sector. This will allow the State of the Sector Report to once again educate and influence policy makers and sector stakeholders.

Who is this survey for?
We would like to hear from every community energy organisation involved in low carbon activities across the whole of the UK.  
 
What sort of projects are included?
We want to hear about all of the projects you have been working on; including for example, electricity and heat generation, energy storage, low carbon transport, energy efficiency, demand management, fuel poverty services and any other low carbon initiatives.
 
How long will it take, and can I save input to continue later?
As this is the first year the survey has been conducted in Scotland, you will be asked to give details of your organisation’s previous community energy projects and services as well as current projects and services, which means the survey will take somewhat longer than usual.
Please allow up to 90 minutes to complete the survey, and make sure you have as much information about your projects as possible. If you don’t have time to complete it all in one go, don’t worry, Typeform will hold your answers in the browser that you start it in for up to 15 days.
     
What is the deadline for submissions?
The survey will be open until 6pm on Wednesday 14 April.
 
Where can I get help?
Regen are assisting us in compiling the data for State of the Sector, so if you have any questions about this survey, please contact Prina

Join us to discuss community energy at COP26

As we move closer to COP26 in November we would like to invite you to discuss how CES and our members might engage with the event. We have been discussing a community energy presence at COP26 with a number of partners in the sector such as Community Energy England, Community Energy Wales and REScoop and are keen to understand how we can support and represent our members through this partnership.

To do so we are hosting a Zoom call on Tuesday the 23rd of March at 4pm (details below). This will be a fairly informal and discursive call with the main points of discussion below. We hope to be joined at the meeting by representatives from Community Energy England and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland who will be able to share their plans and ideas for COP26.

Discussion points:

  • Current plans for engaging, participating or attending COP26 and associated events
  • Ideas, desires and areas of interest for COP26
  • Opportunities to engage, how CES can represent members and how members can get involved

23 March 2021 4pm: We hope to see you there and encourage you to come along if you are interested in taking part in, or learning more about, COP26.

To come along to the call, please click here to register your interest. If you’re not yet a CES member, it’s not too late to join!

ReFLEX Orkney – a new car club collection site at Kirkwall pier

Orkney’s northern outer isles communities now have access to a handy car club site near the ferry terminals at Kirkwall pier, so they no longer need to take their own vehicles on board when heading to Orkney Mainland.

This is the latest development by Community Energy Scotland as part of our role in the ReFLEX project that directly benefits more remote communities.

Co-wheels Orkney Car Club already manages three car hire sites around Orkney Mainland, and shortly, as well as the new site at the pier in Kirkwall, ReFLEX will shortly add another at Stromness, the West Mainland port town.