Community energy asks fundamental questions about who owns, who controls and who benefits from our energy system.

Community energy builds local consent, trust and active participation, by putting people at the heart of the energy system through the local ownership of energy projects and community led approaches to energy efficiency and demand reduction. This is essential to enable the rapid transition to net zero that’s desperately needed to ensure that our children and grandchildren inherit a liveable climate.

Bath & West Community Energy (BWCE) works across Bath & North East Somerset, the western edge of Wiltshire and the eastern edge of South Gloucestershire, and was one of the early trailblazers within the community energy movement. Set up in 2010, BWCE operates as a nonprofit distributing and member led community business, founded on co-operative principles, with strong protections built into its governance to ensure it operates for community benefit. Now with a turnover of 3.5 million, and a support team of over 20 people BWCE is one of hundreds of community businesses operating across the country driving change in local communities.

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BWCE has raised over £20 million through investment from local people and debt from Triodos, the ethical bank, to build out enough community owned solar to match the equivalent annual electricity demand from nearly 5% of local homes.

By 2022, BWCE had been involved in delivering 40% of the renewable energy capacity in Bath & North East Somerset.

BWCE retains over £1 million per year within the local economy, as a result of its local approach value that would otherwise have drained out of the area within a traditional commercial model. Surpluses from our projects have enabled BWCE to donate nearly £400,000 to an independent community fund that distributes grants to support local community action on carbon reduction and fuel poverty.  

BWCE will soon be launching a home energy assessment and retrofit co-ordination service that will support local people to take action in their own homes to reduce fuel bills and carbon emissions (watch this space). We are the lead partner in two other projects showcasing homes that have made energy efficiency improvements and breaking down barriers to retrofitting listed buildings.

We have only just scratched the surface of what’s needed. BWCE plans to triple its renewable project capacity over the next few years, including the development of wind energy projects, grow its home energy service so it’s supporting thousands of homes to decarbonise, and move to supplying local people with cheaper local power through innovation and support for regulatory and policy change.

The community energy movement needs support from local politicians and national government, if we are to grow the sector and move the community energy model closer to the centre of the energy agenda within the UK. We need leadership, a sense of urgency around practical action and a recognition of the need to build community consent and active participation in the transition to net zero.

The following policy changes by Government would enable community energy organisations such as BWCE to increase impact and bring greater benefit to local residents:

  • Remove the national planning restrictions on onshore wind, the cheapest renewable energy technology and so help drive lower energy bills
  • Rapidly increase grid capacity to allow more renewable energy projects to connect to the local electricity grid
  • Reinstate tax relief for investment in community energy to enable local people to support local projects with more confidence
  • Change policy and regulation to enable local renewables projects to supply local people directly with cheaper, clean electricity

And the following funding commitments to expand existing grants and loans to underwrite:

  • Community energy business’s ability to progress new renewable energy projects through the at-risk development phase and get them ready for capital investment
  • Household’s ability to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and reduce their fuel bills

We’ll be watching the election keenly and will be eager to discuss the issues surrounding community energy with the elected MPs in our local constituencies. #empowercommunityenergy