Let’s get informed about community energy!

Caramizaru, A. and Uihlein, A., Energy communities: an overview of energy and social innovation, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2020,ISBN 978-92-76-10713-2, doi:10.2760/180576, JRC119433. “authorised under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)!

In the run-up to COP28, where governments will discuss urgent measures to mitigate the worst effects of climate breakdown, a new online poll has revealed that British adults have, in Bristol Energy Cooperative’s opinion, shockingly low awareness of a climate solution that’s potentially right on their doorstep: community energy.  

The new Ipsos poll commissioned by Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC), a community-owned energy coop, shows, when asked “How much, if anything, do you personally know about the concept of ‘Community Energy’?” only 1 per cent of respondents know a great deal about the concept of community energy. 13% of respondents stated they know something about this concept (know a great deal (1 per cent), a fair amount (2 per cent) or just a little (10 per cent)), with 26 per cent overall saying they have heard of this (know a great deal/a fair amount/just a little (13 per cent) or have heard of this, but know almost nothing about this (13 per cent).  

BEC is calling on the government to invest significantly more money in community-owned renewable energy and improve public awareness. Community energy is a democratic and fair way of developing energy that benefits everyone.

After being asked about the concept, those taking the survey were then given the following information about community energy: 

Community Energy refers to: 

  • Projects where a community comes together to generate, manage and/or reduce their own energy. 
  • These projects can involve a variety of technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric power, etc. 
  • The community is involved in the process, either through direct ownership, decision-making, or benefits sharing. 

Once informed about community energy, almost half of those surveyed (47%) agreed (Strongly agree (12 per cent) or Tend to agree (35 per cent)) that community energy is a more sustainable way of generating electricity than electricity produced by large suppliersAround half of respondents (49 per cent) agreed (Strongly agree (11 per cent) or Tend to agree (38 per cent)) that community energy can be a source of income for local communities who use it. 

What makes community energy different from big profit-making energy companies like Shell and BP is that revenues go into community funds for local environmental initiatives and provide bill savings to host sites, such as in Bristol

In 2023, the government has committed a mere £10 million towards community energy, a drop in the ocean compared to initiatives such as £20bn for Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage, a technology with significant scientific doubts.

In a year that has seen the climate crisis accelerate worldwide, BEC is urging the government to invest significantly more in community energy and promote it to the public as a trusted way to provide cheaper, reliable renewable energy to local people.

Andy O’Brien, Co-founder and Director of BEC says,

“Our poll is a wake-up call for the government. People are being kept in the dark about the best energy solution to the climate emergency, one that empowers communities and greatly helps people struggling during a cost of living crisis. As we enter another difficult winter, it’s time for everyone to have the chance to join the community energy movement with its huge untapped potential.”

Emma Bridge, Chief Executive of Community Energy England says,

“Community energy is the big green elephant in the corner of the energy room. From villages to cities, community organisations are helping homes become cosier, greener, and cheaper to run. But this is done on a shoe-string. Government really needs to step up its support for this vital community resource.”

This is a press release from Bristol Energy Cooperative.