What are the Benefits of Community Energy?
A report by Good Energy (2016) highlights the benefits that community energy can have in tackling some of the main challenges to the energy industry, including energy security, affordability and sustainability:
The UK’s current energy supply is over reliant on fossil fuels. Not only are fossil fuels finite, but UK money is also spent on buying fuel from abroad, meaning the UK is reliant on fuel from often volatile parts of the world. There is also a strong link between the cost of energy bills and price shifts on commodity markets, which can increase household expenses through no fault of those living there. Generating low-carbon power in the UK bypasses both of these issues. Community Energy projects address these problems because they use renewable sources of energy, such as wind or solar; they are generated in the UK, increasing our energy self-sufficiency; and they diversify our energy supply, meaning that we are not reliant on one type of energy.
Affordability is a huge problem in the UK with approximately 2.5 million people living in fuel poverty. Community energy can help to reduce the cost of people’s energy bills.
One of the major benefits of community energy is that the profits generated are reinvested into the community. This money can be used to benefit the community in a range of ways but, in particular, many projects have focused on helping people out of fuel poverty by funding energy efficiency improvements in homes. For example, Plymouth Energy Community offer free home energy improvements, such as loft insulation or replacement boilers to residents most effected by fuel poverty.
Energy supply is the second largest contributor to UK carbon emissions, producing 29% of the UK’s emissions (HM Government, 2018). Community Energy projects can contribute to decarbonising the UK’s energy supply. Research by Community Energy England (2017) shows that UK community energy projects have to date reduced emissions by over 110 000 tonnes. This is the equivalent of the annual emissions of 200 000 households.
Other local community benefits:
- Community resilience and sustainability
- Local wealth building/job creation
- Improved local environment
- Reduced energy prices
- Education & awareness of climate change related issues
Case Study: Plymouth Energy Community
“We set out to create a community of like-minded people who are committed to helping transform all things energy-related for the benefit of the local community and we are doing just that” – Dave Garland, Chairman of Plymouth Energy Community
- 13.4% of Plymouth households live in fuel poverty and the city has very energy inefficient housing.
- In July 2013, Plymouth Energy Community was setup with help from Plymouth City Council. Members of the public were able to buy shares for £50 meaning the local community had a stake in the organisation.
- In a particularly successful project, Plymouth Energy Community worked with an economic development trust to build a 4.1MW solar project that was enough to meet the annual needs of 1000 homes.
- They have used their profits and funding from charities to provide free energy saving measures to homes. In particular, they have a project that helps disabled people to keep their homes warm, preventing fuel poverty from worsening their mental or physical health.
Source: Plymouth Energy Community
Gower Regeneration is Wales' first community owned solar farm, and is another example of a successful small scale renewable project, providing many benefits for the community. Read a report on the project from Community Energy England here.
You can use examples such as the ones above to highlight the benefits of community energy projects to your MP. You could even invite your MP to visit a local project.