Bringing Communities and Local Authorities Even Closer Together to Deliver Net Zero

Bringing Communities and Local Authorities Even Closer Together to Deliver Net Zero

In the light of the Community Energy South’s recent triple win in the Community Energy England awards, we thought it would be a good time to highlight how Community Energy Pathways is helping local authorities and communities come together to tackle the Climate Emergency and help deliver regional net zero goals.

Community Energy Organisation of the Year Award

Community Energy South’s Organisation of the Year Award is for the delivery of its Pathways Programme which has helped directly to build capacity and support the growth of the Community Energy Sector.

The Pathways programme works with local authorities and aligns with their climate change strategies, delivering a bespoke community energy pathway to support their approach to net zero.

The overarching goal of Community Energy South is to see community energy projects mushroom over the next few years. We want to see community energy groups in all 300 local authority areas across England: delivering community-owned renewable generation projects, supporting retrofit and energy saving for those in fuel poverty as well as those able to pay, and putting profits made back into local communities and local nature restoration projects or other regenerative practices.

We have embedded a Powering Up and Powering Down Strategy for the Pathways programme which supports developing community renewable pipelines and embeds energy advice work.

There is an enormous range of diverse projects which we have supported across England including:

  • Saffron Walden Community Energy working with Littlebury Parish, are seeking funding for developing a village-wide retrofit plan, which we look forward to demonstrating to other groups to replicate.

  • Community Action Northumberland who are retrofitting up to 20 village halls and creating warm hubs for local communities to use during these times of extra high energy bills. CAN has been supporting warm hubs since 2015, and not only in response to the current crisis.

  • The Surrey Muslim Association have teamed up with Zero Carbon Guildford and Energy Action Redhill & Reigate on a project, which has just received funding, to provide draught-proofing advice and outreach for almost 2,000 Surrey residents.

  • Rossendale in Lancashire – we helped launch Rossendale Valley Energy CBS who have a pilot project to decarbonise terraced streets using a shared heat pumps via a heat storage network.

  • In Petersfield, we worked with Energise Sussex Downs to establish governance and strategy for building and delivering a pipeline of community energy projects across the South Downs National Park and in two Districts – East Hants and Winchester.  This project is supported by Hampshire County Council and multiple stakeholders.

  • With UK Power Networks and community energy group Ovesco, we have delivered the CommuniHeat programme, which provides a planned approach to rural village decarbonisation.  This project has led to Ovesco being awarded Lottery Climate Action Funds with the Ouse Valley Climate Action project which is now funding a network of Climate & Energy Champions to share learning throughout the Ouse Valley for the next three years.

Local Authority Collaboration Award

Community Energy South’s Pathways programme works with local authorities and aligns with their climate change strategies, delivering a bespoke community energy pathway to support their approach to net zero.

The Pathways programme establishes a network of new and existing community energy groups, who in turn provide 1-to-1 business support, mentoring and capacity building alongside county-wide engagement activities.

To support the programmes, CES also run a monthly series of masterclasses and webinar programmes. We have successfully delivered Pathways with Essex County Council, Surrey County Council and Hampshire County Council and also with South Downs National Park Authority. In 2022 the programme was supported by the BEIS Net Zero Team and also have expressions of interest from 10 county councils and municipal authorities to join the Pathways programme.

Scaling Up Community Energy Award

Community Energy Pathways combines expert community energy mentoring with sharing best practice around community engagement. These two strands work together to support communities, as they scale their energy groups and make them more sustainable.  By focusing on regions and local authority areas, we can also build bespoke support programmes for community energy. At the same time, we connect groups back with their local authorities to deliver regional priorities around net zero. The Levelling Up Agenda and shared prosperity should be enabling this work to scale.

Public participation is fundamental to engaging communities and the electorate, who have ever increasing knowledge and concern around energy matters and climate change.  The Pathways programme enables elected representatives and councils to engage with their communities in a structured approach. Since the Covid pandemic, global climate disasters and COP26&27, communities are more engaged and have also increasingly moved to campaigning online, which has the opportunity to accelerate behaviour change within the world of net zero.

Working with local authorities, parish councils and network operators, community groups can raise their own understanding of local energy system, and deliver more commitment and buy-in for the net zero transition. These projects not only support resilience and bring in up to £9 of investment for every £1 spent, they also bring hope and optimism to those who want to tackle climate change and deliver jobs.

Through Pathways and our work with the sector, we have identified the following areas that we are looking to inform and deliver across the regions that we work in:

  • Connecting Communities through our masterclasses and webinars – our monthly free to attend webinars attract community activists and local councillors from across the country. These events showcase outstanding and replicable community energy projects, support innovation and share expertise around fundraising, grid access and more.

  • Development funding – our experienced mentors support groups to access development funding from a range of sources, including public sector decarbonisation funds, shared prosperity, energy redress and others.

  • Skills – we enable training for energy champions to help both those in fuel poverty with bills, as well as those in the able to pay bracket to decarbonise their homes. We deliver carbon literacy training and we want to work with the higher education sector to support delivery of key skills in low carbon delivery.

  • Unlocking policy – we work with campaigning organisations such as Possible and Power for People to mobilise communities, in support of policy change which can unlock more low carbon delivery for communities.

  • Empowering energy champions – we support energy champions to find funding and deliver projects that generate interest from traditionally hard to reach communities.