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What is a community energy project?

Near Kingston HillDo you want to change how your street, neighbourhood or community building uses energy? Are you wondering how homes in your area could be made more energy efficient, more comfortable to live in, and cheaper to run? Or maybe you are concerned about using fossil fuels for heating and electricity, and want to cut carbon emissions? Do you know like-minded individuals, or already belong to a community group with a project in mind? You may have the beginnings of a community energy project, or be poised to embark on the journey to a low-carbon community.

Such projects start in many different ways and take a host of different sizes and shapes. They can range in scale from arranging basic household energy audits for a group of elderly residents, to fitting solar PV panels to a village hall, to setting up a combined heat and power plant that generates energy for an entire community. It really depends on what interests and motivates you or your group - and what support there is among the wider community. A low-carbon community can consider all of these measures and more.

It's 'localism' in action!

Like everything else, talking about it is easy; it's putting it into practice that's the hard bit. But there are lots of help and advice out there, much of it gained from the many projects that have taken place or are still underway. Furthermore, such projects now chime completely with government policy, which is to encourage decentralized energy schemes and promote energy efficiency as part of the localism agenda. Local authorities are meant to play a key strategic role, by providing support for community groups and businesses wanting to develop their own energy schemes. doorstep survey


Low-carbon communities

These work to encourage the adoption of low-carbon and zero-carbon policies, technologies and lifestyles through local action, and to foster greater awareness of the urgency of combatting climate change. Hence, achieving a low-carbon community is a long-term aim, requiring action in many different areas - not just energy but also waste and recycling, food production, water usage, transport and travel, and all other aspects that contribute to the overall carbon footprint of a community. See local examples such as Derrington Way Ahead and Whittington and Fisherwick Environmental Group.

Benefits... and hazards!

The local benefits of community-based energy schemes can be many and varied. Homes or community buildings that are warmer and more economical to run are obviously welcome, while improved energy efficiency or switching to renewables brings the environmental benefits of reduced carbon emissions. There may also be opportunities for learning new skills or starting a new business, and a successful project may lead to greater community cohesion and a sense of shared purpose and achievement.  But beware, community projects that are mishandled can lead to friction and division!

These web pages are intended primarily to introduce would-be project members to the information, advice and training that is available, and highlight projects, both local and national, that might serve as useful examples of community energy in action!

Some definitions of a community

  • ( in ecology) a group of organisms living within a defined area and interacting with one another
  • people who are willing to support and work for the common welfare and good
  • a bunch of nosey people slagging each other off behind their backs