This Scottish Government document explicitly states a goal of “maximising community benefits from, and ownership of, energy projects”.
While this is a welcome commitment, in our response to this important consultation, we have stressed the need and have detailed ways to address some of the Scottish Government’s strategic goals and plans relating to community energy and other community decarbonisation activities. Community Energy Scotland also recommends the Scottish Government considers longer term strategic goals in order to maintain a realistic perspective on its obligations and expectations, whilst fully addressing the needs of the communities it serves and tackling the climate emergency.
Critically, the need for clearer definitions to identify genuine community ownership has been highlighted. Emphasis has also been placed on the importance of enabling community groups and anchor organisations to use their skills and expertise for delivering local benefits in a fair and just way.
We have requested additional government support for communities to fulfil their plans and upscale their activities in order to thrive and to collectively contribute substantially to government climate-related targets. We are strongly urging both the Scottish and UK governments for significant policy change enabling local energy trading to create localised markets and support micro-grids and decentralisation of the energy market.
COP26 is the 2021 United Nations climate change conference. COP stands for Conference of the Parties, and the summit will be attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994. The UN has held these conferences for almost 30 years, but this one is different – it’s happening right here in the UK. Based in Glasgow, the UK is taking a presidential role on the event which will run from 1-12 November 2021.
Why does it matter?
Historically, these can be landmark events – the Paris Agreement was born at COP21, bringing for the first time a commitment to keep a global rise in temperature below 2 degrees with every effort to keep it to 1.5 degrees. Climate change has never been higher on the agenda, and COP26 can be a pivotal point for international cooperation and domestic policy.
Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to bring forward plans on how much they would reduce their emissions. These plans are known as Nationally Determined Contributions – NDCs. These would be updated every 5 years – and COP26 is the first update of these.
The UK government has a huge focus on delivering a successful COP26. It has sought to lead the way, committing to ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution of 78% carbon reductions over 1990 levels by 2035. However, its plan to deliver this is significantly behind. The Climate Change Committee has repeatedly warned, ”It will not be possible to get close to meeting a net-zero target without engaging with people or by pursuing an approach that focuses only on supply-side changes”.
Where does community energy fit into COP26?
Current climate and recovery policy mostly focuses on big-cheque, business-focused, supply-side investment with nothing to support or stimulate collective action at individual or community or social business level. This is a potentially fatal flaw in the UK’s ‘world-leading’ policies for COP26. We can and must exploit the focus on COP and climate action, to get government recognition and support for community energy as essential to achieving net zero.
To ensure the Scottish Government champion leadership from people and communities as critical to achieving net zero.
To ensure Scottish Government promotes involvement of community energy business models in their net zero policies and programmes.
To move community energy further into the mainstream with key stakeholders (e.g. DNOs, funders, LAs, businesses) and in wider climate, social enterprise and energy movements.
To leverage COP to provide an enhanced role for community energy and a clear pathway towards the 2045 vision.
COP26 will drive climate change up the agenda – use this as an opportunity to get new people involved in your project and to reach out to other people in your community. Have a think about what you need – could you use this as a chance to get more residents signed up to your project, more volunteers, or to make vital links with other local groups? There are lots of great ways to do this – check out just some of them in the Get Involved section.
How can I/we get involved?
Community energy’s power lies in its people – that’s you! We need our members (and their elected representatives) to join the campaign. There are 129 MSPs – we want them all as community energy champions. You have hard-learned knowledge of community energy, where the government is succeeding, and where they’re failing. Beyond political campaigning, COP is a great opportunity to enhance focus on climate action, spreading your message beyond your normal circles and getting supporters actively involved in your projects and in doing their bit from home.
Make your MSP a community energy champion
Your local MSP is your link to the Scottish parliament – you may not agree with everything they do but working with them is a great way to influence policy and raise the profile of your project. The first thing to do is write to your MSP. Find our handy guide here and a letter template here. Ask for a meeting or better still invite them for a site visit. This will be a great opportunity to showcase your work, and speak to them about what support you need.
Share your progress
As COP gets closer, we are expecting more and more focus on climate change and innovative solutions in the media. So there has never been a better time to get in touch with the local and national media to help your work reach a wider audience. We have a range of resources to help you engage successfully with the media here.
Just as important is social media. It’s arguably the most important campaigning tool – and it’s free! There are lots of different platforms you can use, and different ways to get people engaged. We’ve put together a quick how-to for social media with a basic run-through of the platforms and a few tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your social media presence.
Build relations with your local authority and in your area
Local governments may be able to enable projects, through funding, investment, opportunities, connections and contracts etc. Councillors also need connecting with to lead political change and keep energy and climate change high up the agenda.
Hold a climate event
Events can do so much for you – they can bring your volunteers and members together and help you make links within your community. They can also be a great hook for media exposure or getting stakeholders down to visit your site. Alongside arranging an MSP visit, a good time to do this could be during Climate Fringe Week. It’s organised by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and will consist of hundreds of events in Scotland. This will help promote your event and hopefully get people along who might otherwise not be aware of your work!
The New Build Heat Standard consultation requires new buildings consented from 2024 to use heating systems with zero direct emissions. CES put forward the view that action in this area is long overdue. The construction sector, and housing developers in particular, have been reluctant to take action in this area and the Scottish Government have been too too slow in enforcing higher standards. Low carbon heating systems are a proven technology but this must be accompanied by higher standards of energy efficiency if we are to reduce levels of fuel poverty and total energy costs for consumers.
The Draft Heat in Buildings Strategy sets out the Scottish Government’s proposed actions for transforming buildings and the systems that supply their heat, ensuring a transition to zero emissions by 2045. We welcome the long-term ambition and the comprehensive proposals, and recognise the intent to accelerate the timetable for action but questions remain about whether these go far enough.
The proposals highlight the considerable challenges ahead particularly around reconciling the cost of transitioning to low carbon heating systems and the financial burden this will place on many households already in fuel poverty, but it is difficult to see how the Scottish Government’s short-term targets will be met within the timescales proposed and with the level of financial support being offered.