08 Dec Empowering Community Energy?
With a 40 per cent rise in energy demand globally, there is a well reported urgency to generate more power. Whilst large-scale generation such as new nuclear and gas plants will play the biggest part in meeting these energy needs, another source which has been highlighted by Government is community energy projects. According to the Government’s Community Energy Strategy, it is about giving local people ‘more control of and a stake in how energy is generated and supplied, and how their community’s energy demand can be managed and reduced.’ The report estimates there are around 5,000 community groups in the UK but acknowledges this is just the start of a journey which will cover much ground over the next few years.
It is encouraging to see such a strategy in place and to see it translate into real schemes on the ground – for example, Carbon Co-op in Greater Manchester which is developing tools for retro-fitting an energy saving kit into houses and flats. Another successful project referenced in the Government’s Community Energy Strategy update is East Sussex’s Barcombe Energy Group which has secured grant funding to investigate options and proposals for a biomass-fuelled district heating project.
Connecting the dots
The very fact that grassroots energy initiatives are starting to gather interest in the UK is hugely positive and care needs to be taken to create a market context which will enable this progress to continue and to thrive. One learning point we have discovered on our Futurewave journey is that the complexity of the options, and confusion about the journey ahead can often lead to inertia for potential community energy champions.
Following the market research phase, it became clear that there needs to be one central place for these energy options to sit so that customers can easily identify and source the best energy solutions for their homes. At the moment, the difficulty lies in the fact that the onus is on the individual to research, understand their energy options and act.
This means, inevitably, that in many cases, customers don’t know what to do, who to trust and what to expect in the journey ahead. The Futurewave platform hopes to bridge the gap, acting as a launch pad to drive community projects forward by helping them to connect with qualified third parties – such as installers and potential investors – who can help them to create the energy solutions that will power their homes more cost effectively, more carbon-neutrally, or enable them to feedback power into the grid.
Changing the world of energy – are customers ready?
Community energy schemes mark the next chapter in Britain’s energy future; offering a new opportunity to ease the pressure on increasing power demands. But it goes beyond this as, according to the Government strategy, it’s about ‘re-empowering local communities – to create jobs, to share the profits of investment, to work together to save energy, save money and cut energy bills too.’
Change is never easy though and so anything we can do to help make this energy journey as simple as possible could ultimately prove game changing in this industry. The question is, are customers ready to take that step? With the right tools and education, we believe they are.