Community energy’s prospects for future growth and development was the subject of an invited lecture by Gill Seyfang (3S, School of Environmental Sciences, UEA), at Wageningen University’s Environmental Policy Group in the Netherlands.
Community energy is a diverse grassroots-led sector including both demand- and supply-side initiatives for sustainable energy such as community-owned renewable energy generation, village hall refurbishments, behaviour change initiatives and energy efficiency projects.
The lecture drew together research from a 3-year research project ‘Community Innovation for Sustainable Energy’ (conducted jointly with the University of Sussex), and reflected on how the policy and economic context for community energy has changed over the last few years, and how the UK government has responded to the sector.
The research included a national survey of almost 300 community energy projects, in-depth qualitative case study research with twelve local projects, interviews with policymakers and with intermediary organisations aiming to support local projects and encourage replication.
Gill explained “The UK Government has just published its new Strategy for Community Energy, and we’re delighted to see that it adopts many of our policy recommendations – in particular, the need for better resourcing for networking and sharing learning, and for face-to-face mentoring to help projects spread. Also, the regulatory framework will become more responsive to the needs of this emerging sector.”
Gill concluded that there is a glimmer of hope for the community energy sector with this new strategy of support and practical meaures, and the next few years will be a ‘make or break’ time for community energy.