The first UK-wide community energy report has launched today showing the sector’s continued growth over the past year despite the challenges of Covid-19.
The State of the Sector report brings Community Energy England, Community Energy Wales and Community Energy Scotland together for the first time and details the 424 community energy organisations operating in the UK.
In 2020, community energy capacity grew by 8.2MW, bringing the total to 319MW of renewable electricity. Over the next decade, the report estimates there should be enough community energy projects to power 2.2 million homes (the population of West Yorkshire). The projects would be estimated to support up to 8,700 jobs, contribute £1.8 billion to the economy each year and save 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
This year, community energy projects generated £3.13m of funding part of which, £200,000, was release at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic to provide vital support to relief efforts, volunteer networks and energy advisory services for vulnerable people.
Philip Coventry, Projects and Operations Manager at Community Energy England said: “Community energy organisations’ local roots and determination have enabled them to persevere through a difficult year. Community energy organisations have engaged over 358,000 people across the UK about energy use in their own homes and businesses and broader efforts to respond to climate change.
“They’ve helped local people save over £2.9 million on their energy bills through energy efficiency and fuel poverty advice services. Not only that, but the projects themselves have directly supported local economies and green jobs with over £3.13 million distributed to local communities and 400 full time-equivalent employees.
“The report demonstrates the importance and huge potential of community energy in helping the UK reach Net Zero. In the year of COP26 we call on the government to take forward the recommendations of the Environmental Audit Committee with policies that help community energy projects to grow and see these benefits replicated more widely across the country.”
Scott Mathieson, Director of Planning and Regulation at SP Energy Networks said:
“We are pleased to sponsor the State of the Sector report for a third year. The data provided by this annual research helps to inform our network investment plans – particularly shaping our support for our communities to help them realise their net zero ambitions whilst benefiting consumers across our licence areas.
We know that local participation is essential for a just Net Zero transition, and that the community energy sector has an important role to play.”
“It’s welcome to see, for the first time, the three community energy organisations across England, Wales and Scotland come together to look at the cross country picture and we look forward to continuing discussions with groups like the CE bodies who help advise and challenge our thinking as we all must challenge ourselves in the race to tackle the climate emergency”
Many community energy organisations are refocussing on a whole system approach, including both their core priorities of tackling fuel poverty and demand reduction, and exploring innovative business models on providing flexibility services to the electricity distribution networks and low carbon transport. UK community energy organisations provided 181 electric vehicles and 85 EV charge points, with many more in development.