This website aims to bring you news on a weekly basis about small-scale renewable energy and microgeneration schemes, as well as energy efficiency projects being run by local authorities, community groups, small businesses and social housing providers. We hope that when you learn about what is going on at the opposite end of the country you will be inspired to take action in your own community without having to re-invent the wheel.
The Big Six
Our traditional energy system is failing. Privatising the UK’s energy utilities was supposed to be a major step on the road to creating a share-holding democracy. The UK energy market is dominated by six big companies and we have the least trusted energy sector anywhere in the world, with the ‘Big Six’ less trusted than banks or the media.
The UK is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and a quarter of our generating capacity is due to close by 2018. This means we need a massive national effort to move to a low carbon economy over the next few years, and we can’t do that without trustworthy energy companies. In other parts of Europe, such as in Denmark and Germany, there are hundreds of different types of companies involved in providing energy including local authorities, community co-operatives, small companies, farmers and individuals. We could do this in Britain too. Research by the Energy Saving Trust has shown that by 2050 microgeneration, which includes small-scale renewables and combined heat and power plants, could provide 30–40% of the UK’s electricity needs.
A community-led renewable energy revolution is already beginning to take shape. From Brighton to Bristol and Westmill in Oxfordshire to the Western Isles, people and communities are beginning to take control of their own energy and find that it can be enormously empowering, boosting a sense of what’s possible among individuals and the community as a whole, and bringing a host of economic benefits to boot. Community Energy is about much more than just producing low carbon energy – it’s about ‘energy democracy’: a changed relationship between people and energy, from one where consumers are at the mercy of large profit-making energy providers and fluctuations in the market, to one where communities control, generate and benefit from their own energy supply. Many communities in Britain are fractured by social divisions and low collective self-esteem, and community energy projects can help address this malaise.
Coalitions and organisations of different types are setting up to help foster Community Energy. One such Coalition includes some of the best known and trusted national organisations, including The Co-operative Group, The National Trust, The National Federation of Women’s Institutes and The Church of England. They want to start a revolution with communities at its heart which will drive a clean, affordable and secure energy system. Their vision for community energy in 2020 is “communities across the UK owning, generating and saving energy together for the benefit of all”.
Hopefully some of the things going on in Local Authorities and Community Energy Projects around the UK will inspire others to take action. Existing projects range from Energy Co-operatives in Bath, Bristol, Sheffield, and Brixton; to solar schemes for social housing in Wrexham and Birmingham; district heating schemes in Dundee and Aberdeen; a geothermal project in Manchester; heat stores in Berwickshire and innovative plans to establish Glasgow as a centre of excellence in the development of sustainable energy technologies.