They bring multiple benefits – reducing fuel bills and helping alleviate fuel poverty; creating jobs and strengthening the local supply chain; building community capacity and pride; and helping meet carbon-reduction targets and mitigate climate change.
But most community energy projects happen in more affluent areas, meaning these benefits aren’t as widely shared as they might be. That’s not to say there aren’t initiatives in low-income neighbourhoods, but there could be far more.
The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) spoke to community energy initiatives in low-income neighbourhoods, and found many ways in which councillors can help.
For example, they can press for the integration of community ownership and benefit in planning proposals for renewable energy schemes, and encourage high building-fabric standards in new builds.
Where neighbourhood plans are being written, urge residents to think about sustainable energy from the beginning of their plan development – and support those who are already doing it.
You can highlight the untapped community energy opportunities that exist with the council’s buildings and land, and engage with the council regarding its investment activities. Are there opportunities for building local renewable energy and demand-reduction schemes? This could be insulation and solar panel schemes targeted at low-income and council-owned households, running loan schemes to enable householders to buy energy-efficient appliances, or providing financial backing to large-scale community-owned energy schemes.
Arrange for local stakeholders from local government, the private sector, community development organisations, health bodies and energy agencies to come together and brainstorm what could be done locally on sustainable energy.
While it’s a time of restricted capacity and funds in local government, community energy initiatives can build the long-term economic resilience of a community – and there are many great examples already demonstrating this. Councillors and councils play a critical leadership role in supporting and driving forward these initiatives.