Context

Around the world, the idea that communities install, own, and enjoy some of the benefits of renewable energy is growing fast. In Germany over 50% of renewable energy being installed is in community ownership. In the UK alone, over 5,000 community groups have set up community energy schemes since 2008. Many of these have been Transition groups, and the schemes they have come up with have varied widely in terms of size.

Community energy around the world

In Japan, the Fujino Electric Company has inspired another 40 communities to start their own energy companies, and in Belgium, many Transition groups are involved with community energy to varying degrees. For example while Champs d’énergie originated mostly from Gelbressée en Transition, Ferréole pre-dates Liège en Transition, but now has many connections to the group. Another of our 21 Stories of Transition included a look at Transition community energy in Luxembourg.

Why it matters

This surge in community energy projects is a powerful story. The offer the potential for greater democratic control, for shared benefits and for greater active participation of the community which can, in turn, lead to infrastructure and cultural change. Decarbonising our energy system requires decentralised renewables, which leads us to far greater opportunities for community investment and involvement. And it brings people together, and creates opportunities for conversation, for parties, for relationships. And it’s change people can see happening around them, which means the changes we need to make don’t seem so far off and impossible.

Some UK examples:

Hassocks, Hurstpierpoint, Keymer, Ditchling Transition started HKD Energy. They have:

  • installed 307 solar panels on Downloads School Sports Centre
  • generated 80,000 kWh of electricity per year, saving 42 tonnes of carbon per year
  • raised £100,500 in shares from local people, with 83% of the investors living within a 4 mile radius of the school.

Bath and West Community Energy, which emerged from Transition Bath and Transition Corsham:

  • have installed 3MW of solar PV in their own community energy projects
  • have supported the installation of 3MW of other community energy groups solar PV
  • are in process of supporting the development of a further 10MW of other community energy groups solar PV
  • have raised and helped raise £10 million through community shares for their and their partners projects
  • have re-distributed £65,000 of profits back into local carbon reduction and fuel poverty projects over the last 2 years.

Brixton Energy, which grew out of Transition Town Brixton, has:

  • installed 134.24 kW of solar energy across 3 schemes
  • raised a total investment of £182,000 from local people through three share offers
  • Saved around 1275 tons of CO2
  • Benefited from 290 hours of volunteer input.

They are currently planning Brixton Energy 4, bringing the electricity (solar-generated!) back to Electric Avenue, one of the area’s best-known streets.

“We don’t need governments to show us how to make the changes we need, but we do need governments to work with us to create the conditions within which change can flourish, scale and be embedded at a societal level”.

West Solent Energy Co-operative, started by members of New Forest Transition, have:

  • raised £2 million in shares from local people
  • installed a solar farm that will generate approximately 2.5 GWh each year will save approximately 1,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.

Transition Malvern Hills’ Malvern Energy Co-operative’s first project was installing solar panels on the Malvern Cube (the town’s youth centre). A 30kW solar array was installed, and most of the energy generated is sold to the Malvern Cube at a reduced rate. Transition Bro Gwaun (who have already appeared in another of our 21 Stories) are part of a 50:50 joint venture with a local farmer for a 225kW wind turbine which will:

  • produce around 528,000 kWh per year
  • save around 290 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Once the loans from local people that made it possible have been paid off, revenue will go into a Low Carbon Local Development Fund which will support a range of local projects.

The Ouse Valley Energy Services Company (OVESCO) was formed in 2007 by members of Transition Town Lewes. It’s first project was installing 545 solar panels on the roof of the local Harveys Brewery. Since then, with the support of over 250 shareholders, they have:

  • put up 5 solar installations with a capacity of 191 kWp, with an annual output of 185MWh
  • saved 110 tonnes of CO2 per year
  • raised £441,000 of community investment.

They are currently working on a 5MW solar farm, and through the UK Government’s Peer Mentoring Scheme have supported 20 neighbouring communities to replicate their model.

“Validate and nurture local action through the policies, rhetoric and personal action you take, start by looking to your own community(ies) and get involved in change, to whatever level or in whatever way is feasible”.
Peter Capener, Bath & West Community Energy