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Community energy projects need ‘support at all levels’ to flourish



While community-led renewable energy projects can help meet climate targets, they need more resources and clear policy framework in order to truly thrive, new research has concluded.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) and the University of Sussex looked at 12 small-scale community energy projects that aimed to save energy or generate electricity through renewable energy development, to see the level of support they received.

UEA’s lead researcher Dr Gill Seyfang said, “The combined pressure of global climate change and threats to energy security mean that we will have to think more radically about sustainable energy. We wanted to know whether energy-saving community projects, run by voluntary organisations, schools, businesses and faith groups, could help.

“What we found is that there is a great deal of community enthusiasm for small scale innovative projects like this, but the resources available are not always enough to really help them flourish.”

The study says that while the government’s Community Energy Strategy has improved the situation, there is still a lot to be done.

What is really needed is flexible and tailored policy support at all levels. While technical advice is available through handbooks and toolkits, there are some really critical support needs in particular – from decision making help to financial models and emotional stamina to keep going in challenging times”, Seyfang added.

Commenting on the report, Friends of the Earth renewable energy campaigner Alasdair Cameron said, “Instead of undermining investment in solar and wind, ministers must do much more to help communities reap the benefits of clean power. A good place to start would be to enable schools to borrow money to afford the upfront cost of solar panels.”

Photo: Hepburn Wind via Flickr

Further reading:

Four Staffordshire schools set to benefit from solar co-op project

Solar co-operative gives investors a share in Plymouth’s green future

Community Energy Strategy launched to help local renewables projects

Public shows renewables interest ahead of Community Energy Strategy unveiling

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013