NEW INITIATIVES LAUNCHED TO ENABLE MORE COMMUNITY ENERGY
- Fund launched to help local groups secure up to £10,000 to explore new community energy projects that could help reduce consumer bills and support net zero emissions targets.
- ‘Put your community on the map!’ campaign launched aimed at helping community groups connect to share ideas and best practice.
- National community energy body, Community Energy England, shows support for Northern Powergrid initiatives by offering groups free Community Energy England membership if they register before 31 May 2022.
Northern Powergrid, the company responsible for the electricity network that powers everyday life for 8 million customers across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, is supporting the growth of community energy in the region with the launch of two new initiatives.
The network operator has launched a new Net Zero Community Energy Fund to help tackle the barriers groups are facing when it comes to getting projects off the ground. The fund will provide targeted assistance to build the capacity and knowledge of community energy organisations, encouraging more new projects that could bolster energy independence, reduce the impact of increased energy prices, and help achieve net zero emissions targets.
Northern Powergrid is offering support for projects at the early stages - from enabling access to the right expertise or training to exploring feasible project ideas and encouraging new and existing community energy organisations to develop their projects. In-kind support or grants up to £10,000 are available for groups exploring local net zero action, with applications assessed bi-monthly until 31 July 2022. Groups interested in finding out more and applying for a grant should visit northernpowergrid.com/communityenergy
In parallel, Northern Powergrid will also continue to deliver free online training sessions for community energy groups in its region over the summer. Recordings of previous training sessions (on delivering energy efficiency and rural projects) are also available on Northern Powergrid’s community energy webpage to help local groups who were unable to attend.
The network operators is also playing its part in creating more opportunities for peer-to-peer networking within the sector with the launch of its ‘Put your community on the map!’ campaign. Community energy and climate groups are being invited to add details about their activities and interests to a new interactive map to help them get the right support, have visibility, and find other like-minded, local organisations.
Challenging geopolitics and energy price increases highlight the importance of creating local opportunities for energy generation that are affordable and low carbon. With community organisations providing energy efficiency and fuel poverty advice, delivering emissions reduction projects, distributing food vouchers, creating local jobs, and employing volunteers, they provide many social, environmental, and economic benefits. However, developing low carbon, local energy projects can be complex, particularly for volunteer-led organisations. Northern Powergrid’s initiatives seek to enable the support needed to change this and open the door to more community energy opportunities in the future.
Anda Baumerte, Northern Powergrid’s Sustainability Manager, said: “Our vision is one for a thriving, connected, and strong community energy sector in our region, where decarbonisation, resilience, energy democracy, energy security, and innovation go hand-in-hand. We want to work with the communities we serve to tackle the climate emergency together. We are seeing a growing network of community energy organisations across the region – our interactive map will connect new and existing groups, fostering greater collaboration. We also hope that our new fund will provide the vital early support to equip them with tools to make a difference and deliver more projects locally.”
Community energy organisations across the UK delivered £3.13 million of community benefits in 2020 and generated enough electricity to power the equivalent of 100,000 homes. By 2030, community energy could save £150 million in consumer bills, redistribute £19 million to the local economy, and create 8,700 jobs, according to Community Energy England.
Shannon Jackson, Network and Learning Coordinator at Community Energy England, said: “With community energy being ready to save £150 million to UK homes by 2030, we welcome Northern Powergrid’s timely initiatives and vital support in the region. This is a golden standard which we would like to enable nationally too.
“This May, we are therefore offering groups in Northern Powergrid areas free annual membership to help build ambitions and next steps through access to our national networks, resources, events and online tools.
“With 280 members nationwide, and opportunities like our free training for Energy Advice and Fuel Poverty work during event series like Community Energy Fortnight this June, do make sure you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org before 31 May 2022 to gain access to national support and network building. ”
Northern Powergrid has been a long-standing advocate of community energy. Since 2014, when the network operator launched its community energy support programme, it has seen a marked increase in community groups interested in energy and emissions reduction projects, but a slow growth in new projects or initiatives.
In 2020, Northern Powergrid published its Community Energy Engagement Strategy, formalising 26 commitments to support the groups in the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire. Since then, Northern Powergrid has had over 6,000 interactions with community energy stakeholders, delivered 20 of their 26 commitments, and held six community energy forums. During this time, it has observed a boom in local energy and climate action groups seeking to achieve net zero emissions on a local scale. The number of organisations in Northern Powergrid’s operating area has increased from around 20 to over 80, while subscribers to the network operator’s community energy newsletter have increased ten-fold. Any groups or individuals interested in community energy and receiving the free newsletter should email email@example.com