Community energy groups seek to secure a place in the evolving energy system

Community energy groups are struggling to develop viable projects, groups involved in the sector have warned. In 2014, the government’s community energy strategy imagined that one million homes would be powered by community energy schemes by 2020, but only 67,000 homes have that benefit, according to a report by the Green Alliance. Now 20 groups supporting community energy have called on climate minister Claire Perry MP to ensure community energy is supported in any new design for the energy system.

Launching a ‘Manifesto for Community Energy’, the organisations note that in determining new rules and regulations around how we buy, sell and manage our energy “It is vital that the voices of community energy groups are heard and that the value they can bring is fully considered”.

Meanwhile the Green Alliance, one of the manifesto’s backers, has put forward four proposals in a report entitled Community Energy 2.0. It says that scrapped strategies and reductions in feed-in tariffs mean that community energy groups have struggled to make a reasonable business case. In 2017 at least 66 community projects either stalled or failed. But there are new opportunities in dramatic cost reductions in renewable energy, the advent of electric vehicles, cheaper batteries and greater automation.

To adapt to this context, community energy groups will need to change their offer. They need to provide more value to the energy system by offering flexibility and demand reduction services. In return, the government should move from considering cost to considering value.

The four proposals are:

  • Open new routes to market for community energy schemes
  • Design local energy markets that fully value community energy
  • Stimulate local innovation with more trials
  • Support clean energy ownership through community enterprise

Positive news in southeast

Meanwhile, London and southeastern network UK Power Networks has found in a review that there are 50  community energy projects connected to its three networks, totalling 14.6MW. The review was undertaken  so UKPN can understand more about their needs and aspirations. The company recently launched a dedicated new section for community energy on its website.

UKPN says community energy schemes could be well-placed to take advantage of new opportunities arising in the community energy sector from the growing low carbon economy. It highlighted the launch last year of  increased opportunities for distributed energy resources to generate new income streams by selling services such as flexibility.

Mark Adolphus, director of connections at UK Power Networks said: “The community energy movement has given local areas and neighbourhoods the opportunity to harness the benefits of generating their own clean, renewable energy.

“As new technologies such as smart energy management, energy storage and low carbon become more widespread these opportunities will only increase. We look forward to continuing to support community energy projects.”

Further reading

Read the Manifesto for Community Energy

Read Community Energy 2.0

Visit UK Power Networks community energy website

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