Community energy is about small-scale, co-operative energy generation, rather than consumption. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for community energy schemes to generate electricity directly to their members locally (see below), but you can stipulate schemes and renewable technologies if you purchase energy from the Energy Co-op. You can also invest in community energy schemes, to help them develop, and you’ll get a good rate of return. If you don’t have a local scheme, there are some very good organisations that will give you advice on starting one, and help you every step of the way, including with funding.
What to do
1. Invest in a community energy scheme
Community energy schemes are a particularly good investment, generally offering higher returns than most other kinds of community share offers, and much higher than bank savings accounts. Plus you’ll be helping to make our energy supply more sustainable and less corporate. Contact them to ask about how to invest and the rate of return.
Here are community energy schemes listed on the Ethex website.
Here is a listing of community energy schemes on the Community Shares website.
And here’s a page with live share offers from Sharenergy.
You need to talk with a support organisation, who will advise you and guide you through the process, as well as possibly providing loans / funding. Here are some organisations to speak with:
Community Energy England are the go-to organisation in England.
The Community Energy Fund provides loans for schemes in Wales.
Local Energy Scotland provide funding for groups in Scotland.
Energy4All, a co-op of co-ops, provide lots of assistance too.
Just give them a call to start a conversation. They’ll put you on the right path.
Plus here are some resources to read first:
Here’s a toolkit for those thinking of starting a scheme in Scotland.
Here’s information about starting a scheme in England.
Here’s official UK government information on setting up a community energy scheme.
3. Licensing problem
You can’t buy energy directly from a community energy scheme. Currently, licenses to become an energy provider are prohibitively expensive, and can only be afforded by big players. Community energy groups have to sell their electricity to the National Grid (cheaply – around 5p per unit), and members have to buy it back (expensively – around 18p per unit). This is, in effect, a huge tax on community energy. There’s no reason that a community group capable of researching, planning and building a large wind turbine / wind farm / solar farm that feeds electricity into the National Grid should be prevented from providing energy to their members directly.
That’s something that can be campaigned about, but in the meantime, you can purchase gas and electricity from the Energy Co-op, who source electricity from community energy schemes, and provide a map for you to stipulate which scheme you want to support, and what kind of generation, which means that your money stays in the non-corporate sector.
See here for more.