Keeping Our Energy Local

Urban Sustainability Climate Change Community Energy fuel poverty community Author - Dan Curtis

Keep It Local - Money, Power & Community Resilience

We are in the midst of a seismic shift in the way we use and consume energy. The age when coal and nuclear power have dominated the supply market is over. Gigantic power stations and reactors will soon be history. Developments like electric cars, smart grids, battery storage and demand response will make a huge difference to our relationship with energy by making it more local. With access to affordable generation technologies like offshore wind and solar power, coupled with battery storage, heat pumps and a more efficient use of energy, we, as communities, are truly able for the first time to seize control of our energy future.

Nationally, the community energy movement has witnessed tremendous growth over recent years, now boasting 222 organisations throughout the country, which can collectively generate 121MW of clean renewable energy. That’s enough to power 85,500 homes, and has reduced carbon emissions by 110,000 tonnes since 2002.

Because community energy groups are owned by residents, any profits made can be reinvested in developing more locally owned energy projects, instead of being paid out as interest to shareholders. It is also common for community energy groups to channel some of their revenue towards tackling fuel poverty and improving the energy efficiency of cold homes in the area. As well as benefiting individual households, this can also alleviate pressures on local health services.

By embracing the community, and employing local traders and installers to carry out projects, community energy groups are able to support local business and stimulate the local economy. Not only does this benefit domestic job creation, but it has a positive impact on business rates too.

The drive, commitment and local insight of community energy groups provides the ability to put into practice emerging market developments, while the trust associated with being community owned can be vital for encouraging the uptake of new technologies such as smart meters. As Ollie Pendered from Community Energy South says, “Community energy groups are a marketplace for innovation”.

Community Energy South conference in 2017

In contrast to the Big Six energy companies (only two of which are UK owned), community energy groups are rooted in their localities and understand the concerns of residents and stakeholders. You would never find BHESCo or Ovesco, for example, embarking on a project that was opposed by local people, such is the case with fracking plans in Lancashire.

Ovesco was born out of the Transition Town movement and has gone on to develop many high profile community energy projects in the area, including huge solar PV installations at Harveys Brewery, Brickyard Farm, and several schools and colleges. In Summer 2017, the people of Lewes celebrated the tenth anniversary of their local energy co-op Ovesco by honouring them on the latest Lewes Pound note. Being commemorated by the Lewes Pound is a brilliant visual example of the way that Ovesco keeps money within the local economy, and adds value to the community far beyond the energy systems they install.

In all of these ways, whether its creating jobs, reducing bills, or improving health, it is very clear that "keeping it local" has tremendous benefits for creating an independent and resilient community. When services and institutions are owned by and run by the people they serve, they will inevitably be responsible, democratic, and sustainable.

Our advice? Act local, join your community energy co-op ASAP. Let’s work together to make this happen!

Dan Curtis
Customer Services & Marketing Coordinator

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