What is Community Energy and why do we need it?

Our current energy system is changing because the old approach is no longer fit to meet the challenges of climate change, to embed energy security (clearly highlighted by conflicts such as the war in Ukraine) and to create a system that doesn’t regard high levels of fuel poverty as an inevitable consequence of normal business practice.

We are moving away from large-scale, centralised, carbon intensive energy generation, which drains economic value away from where it’s created and loses the opportunity to create a strong connection with the local area as a result. Consumers (customers) have little influence over the source of energy or who benefits from the sale of its supply. In this model there is a less tangible connection between energy generation and energy supply and the social and environmental impact of individual patterns of energy use, until the recent high prices have forced people to think more carefully about energy use.

We are moving towards local renewable energy projects (this is where community energy comes in). Community energy organisations are member led, are democratic with one member, one vote, and with a transparent structure of governance. Community energy enterprises offer a way of doing business that focuses on covering operational costs rather than maximising and distributing profits, this allows surplus income to be invested back into local communities, to benefit local people. Community energy projects offer local control, accountability and benefit.

Why do we need it? Community energy offers an opportunity to challenge our assumptions about energy by encouraging us as individuals to take greater control over energy supply and get involved and engaged with energy efficiency and the process of reducing our demand on the energy system.

By becoming a member of a community energy organisation people are enabling change within the energy system (known as the energy transition), Members share in the benefits, along with the local community, have a say in how things happen and have a sense of pride and connection with the business outcomes.