Community Energy Fortnight 2022

Community Energy Fortnight is a social media platform held over two weeks that enables groups to share their experiences of community energy – both the challenges and the success stories.

Your opportunity to amplify your voice!

This year’s programme emphasises the cost of living crisis and increasing rates of fuel poverty experienced within our communities. Using the hashtag #EfficiencyFirst to raise awareness of the real-life effects on the lives of communities and individuals, we will share the ways in which you support those you represent.

#EfficiencyFirst spreads the word and highlights our sector’s significant contribution to a just transition and climate crisis solutions.

Quick and easy to get involved – a simple image, comment or quote will do. Click here for more information & suggestions.

Tag us in so we can spread the word: we have +1k followers on Facebook & +4k on Twitter!

Decision-makers need to know about what we do in our sector and the solutions we create – make that message loud & clear between 11-24 June!

Local energy solutions: an important tool in alleviating fuel poverty

Unprecedented increases in energy costs are set to have a devastating impact on households across Scotland this winter. £250 has been added to average bills compared with last winter. It is estimated that a further £350 could be added in the spring.

Energy companies are failing every week and cheaper fixed deals have all but disappeared. Pre-pandemic, a quarter of households, over 600,000 in number, were struggling with their energy costs. Energy Action Scotland estimate that is set rise by over 100,000 households as the universal credit uplift is removed, furlough has ended, and people remain at home, increasing the number of fuel poor households in Scotland as high as one in three in the foreseeable future. 

These figures sit in contrast to the rest of the UK (note that the most recent figures are all pre-pandemic) 

  • In 2019 (the most recent Scottish House Condition Survey), Scotland’s levels of fuel poverty were estimated at 613,000, or 24.6 per cent of households;   
  • Northern Ireland was estimated at 131,000 households in 2018, or 18 per cent of households.   
  • Wales was estimated at 155,000 in 2018, or 12 per cent of households; 
  • England was estimated at around 2.4 million in 2018, or 10.3 per cent of households  

COP26 in Glasgow has provided a focus for discussions on achieving NetZero globally. Scotland has its ambitions to achieve NetZero enshrined in legislation for 2045. Our fuel poverty target of only 5% of households is similarly enshrined but for 2040. It is a challenge.  

Genuine transition needed

To make progress there needs to be huge systemic movement. Our relationship with energy needs to change. The stealth taxes that so unfairly burden those on the lowest incomes need to be removed. We have long argued against the unfairness of tax levies on gas and especially on electricity. Fairness dictates, that these should sit within general taxation.  Energy supplier funded research into how policy costs are applied to energy bills appears to agree that the current position isn’t fair and isn’t part of a just transition. However, it does appear that this research favours a redistribution of policy costs and the introduction of a carbon charge. An interesting proposal but less fair than moving these costs to general taxation.

It will be difficult to change the behaviour of the public set against a backdrop where millions of households in the UK are in energy debt. Scotland’s Energy Consumers Commission is rightly concerned. As a Commissioner I am very troubled by what I see. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that over 4million households are already in debt and that 1.4million households are behind on energy bills, making the transition to NetZero even more complicated and stressful for people.  

There is a risk that decarbonisation could come with a dogmatic approach that isn’t sensitive to the issues faced by vulnerable and low-income households. Environmentalists have waited a long time to be taken this seriously and by underestimating the challenge in shifting the lives of people already disenfranchised and on the margins of society, there is a risk of social collateral damage. Of course, there will be an improvement in the long term to the quality of our lives and indeed potentially our health and wellbeing. But there needs to be genuine transition, signals, and incentives to engage us all on this journey.  

Insulation, improvements to the fabric of building are essential but we will need to look a lot deeper and further if we are to meet our NetZero ambitions.  

Optimistic horizon

I genuinely believe that we stand at a new dawn for our relationship with energy. Where there will be room for diversity, for heat networks, for community ownership, local energy generation, for domestic renewable energy, as well as a shift in the perspectives of our scaled energy generation, our energy infrastructure, and suppliers. The signs are there. Targets are being set. Policy and strategies are being developed. Governments and society more widely understand the rationale for change and indeed what needs to change. I am optimistic, in the medium to long term certainly. Short term I am concerned about the collateral damage, the loss of life, of health and wellbeing, as energy becomes unaffordable for far too many. 

Targeted local energy solutions should be able to protect communities from the fluctuations of the energy market especially in areas that are off-gas. 43% of households in electrically heated homes find themselves in fuel poverty. The current price shocks will have increased this and put even more households into extreme fuel poverty.  

We will need to mobilise unprecedented levels of support to even approach something like a standstill for fuel poor households. A vibrant community energy sector is essential if we are to overcome fuel poverty and meet our NetZero ambitions 

Frazer Scott, CEO at Energy Action Scotland, founded in 1983 it is Scotland’s fuel poverty charity – guest blog


At Community Energy Scotland we value our team’s and communities’ opinions. Blogs are a chance for us, our members and guests to share personal opinions and expertise, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Community Energy Scotland as an organisation. Please note opinions may change and Community Energy Scotland does not offer any endorsements.

Looking long term: a vision of a thriving community energy sector

A reinvented community energy sector could play a key role in making the net zero transition a socially just one; but it will need support from policy.

Looking long term

Today, the dominant activity in UK community energy – at least in terms of what brings in money – is renewable electricity generation, at small and medium scales. But getting new projects of this sort up and running has been much harder since the closure of the Feed-in Tariff scheme two years ago.

Now obviously, community energy groups are NOT just in it for the money, and they’re not strangers to working for free! Nevertheless, spending power is, well, power. You can use it to pay staff, supporting the local economy and ensuring your organisation survives; to support other local groups; or build affordable housing. So the question arises – where will it come from in the future?  And not just next month, or next year, but in the longer term?

Here is where the current talk in energy policy circles, of the future energy system being decentralised, decarbonised, and ‘consumer’ centred, seems to offer bright prospects to community energy. So, amid the end-of-FITs gloom, we brought practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders together to scope out a hopeful long term vision. We asked them to picture a future where community energy is thriving. What do you see community energy groups doing? How are they organised? And crucially: who needs to do what to make it happen?

Expanded and diversified

The key message is that community energy could become much more than electricity generation, but could spread into all parts of the energy system. Yes they would still generate electricity – but they would sell it to local customers as well as national wholesalers, and they would trade flexible demand on behalf of local residents. They would using pricing power and technical know-how to address fuel poverty and the digital divide. Some would run ‘mixed mobility’ services – buses, car clubs and more; or heat networks in off-gas-grid areas and new-build developments. Some organisations might focus on one or two complementary activities – others might embrace many, as illustrated in our graphic. But through this technological change, the focus is always on social and environmental outcomes.

Achieving this would require change in the shape and scale of community energy – as shown in the graphic. The boundaries of the sector might become ‘fuzzy’, with partnerships with other community groups, housing bodies and local authorities more common.

We also saw potential for more partnerships with other community energy groups across multiple localities, in a member-controlled Confederation. This would be a ‘coop of coops’ style organisation, a bit like Energy4All or the emerging Big Solar Coop, but on an even larger scale. Its purpose would be to help resolve the perennial tension between achieving economies of scale, and preserving local groups’ roots in their communities. This would require a shift in thinking for the sector, perhaps. But, with E4A and others (also e.g. Communities for Renewables) paving the way, more evolution than revolution.

Making it happen

If this vision sounds good, the big question is: how to make it happen? Community energy activists have plenty of experience of learning new technologies and adapting to change. This, and their skills in partnership working, will be called on increasingly in the future. But there will need to be policy changes too. The list is long, but includes central government regulating to give smaller players a better chance of surviving the energy market; and governments from devolved to regional to local levels purchasing from and investing in community energy.

Yet policymakers may see the sector as inevitably small, whose role in the energy transition is more about cultural change than operational delivery. Of course, community energy has long argued that it is about ‘more than megawatts’. But our vision shows the sector with a significant operational role. How to convince the policymakers that this is desirable – and feasible?

Firstly, ideas matter; and the concept of ‘Just Transition’ could be important. Scotland launched its own Just Transition Commission last year. Wales has had a Wellbeing of Future Generations Act for some time. Some might argue that a techno-transition could be managed top-down. But surely an inclusive and just energy transition needs, not just grassroots participation, but grassroots power and ownership?

Secondly, dare we say it, policymakers could be directed to look to Europe. Several countries have large, operationally-focussed community and cooperative energy sectors. Why can’t the UK?

Finally, evidence of the benefits of community energy is important. I’m looking forward to reading the latest research on this from CAG Consultants, launched in Community Energy Fortnight – and hope this can play a part in setting us on the road to a thriving future for community energy.

This blog summarises a newly published academic paper in the journal Energy Research and Social Science. Please contact Dr Tim Braunholtz-Speight for a copy or available to download at https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1dFJ%7E7tZ6ZtcoX

Dr Tim Braunholtz-Speight, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester – Guest blog


At Community Energy Scotland we value our team’s and communities’ opinions. Blogs are a chance for us, our members and guests to share personal opinions and expertise, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Community Energy Scotland as an organisation. Please note opinions may change and Community Energy Scotland does not offer any endorsements.

Skip to content