This toolkit focuses on three common scenarios that we at Community Energy Plus have encountered regularly through working with Communities on Energy Projects over the last 14 years, most recently on the Sustainable Energy Communities project.
Focusing on just three scenarios means they are by their nature broad. While your project may differ significantly in goals or scope from these high level scenarios we hope that by combining elements from within the different sections of the site you will be able to identify most of the key issues you need to be thinking about and if not identify where you might go to find other resources.
The three scenarios are:
1. Reducing Energy Use in your Community
2. Transforming Energy Use in Community Buildings
3. Community Renewables Projects
Reducing Energy Use in your Community
Reducing energy use in your community is an obvious place to start for sustainable energy communities. Domestic energy use accounts for around one third of overall UK consumption. Documenting patterns of existing energy use is a key step on the way to identifying the most effective strategies for reducing consumption. This can include energy surveys, carbon footprinting and home surveys.
Reducing energy demand is the simplest and cheapest way to reduce overall consumption and can be achieved through behaviour change and with technologies such as real-time displays and improved heating and lighting controls. Energy efficiency improvements can achieve significant cuts in energy use by enabling the same services to be delivered for less primary energy.
Reducing local energy use will require effective strategies for engaging with your community and can be achieved without onerous legal or organisational structures.
Transforming Energy Use in Community Buildings
Many communities have buildings such as village halls or local schools and a lot can be done to reduce energy consumption and improve the way in which energy services are delivered in these buildings. This can include improving energy efficiency through measures such as insulation and energy efficient lighting systems. Renewable technologies such as solar panels and heat pumps can also be used to replace fossil-fuelled energy sources.
Each community building is different and patterns of energy use will vary depending on when and how the building is used: technologies that are appropriate for one building may not be suitable or cost effective for another. Organisational and financial issues will also influence what is possible at each community building.
Community Renewables Projects
Community Renewables projects are often the first thing that a new community energy group will want to pursue. However schemes such as community wind turbines will often take the most time and the greatest resources and effort to achieve out of any of the three scenarios identified here. Issues such as planning permission, land access and grid connection require considerable work to secure and contractual arrangements for financing, installing and maintaining will often require an incorporated community organisation to deliver.
As a result of these challenges and because replacing supply with renewable energy is so costly it may make sense to pursue demand reduction and energy efficiency programmes before considering new renewable supply. Simpler projects engaging with the community or delivering specific changes to a community building will help to develop knowledge, skills and experience in your group preparing you for the greater challenge of delivering community renewables.