Community-led energy projects are being held back by a lack of resources and support from current policies, according to a new report.
A grassroots sustainable energy niche? Reflections on community energy in the UK, published by the University of East Anglia (UEA) studied 12 small-scale projects aiming to reduce energy consumption in local communities.
It found that while the government has taken strides to support such schemes through the Big Society agenda, projects still need better policy support to get them off the ground. This includes help to develop financial models and improved evaluation and performance monitoring.
Lead researcher Dr Gill Seyfang, from UEA’s school of Environmental Sciences, said ‘What we found is that there is a great deal of community enthusiasm for small scale innovative projects like this, but the resources available are not always enough to really help them flourish.
’What is really needed is flexible and tailored policy support at all levels. While technical advice is available through handbooks and toolkits, there are some really critical support needs in particular - from decision making help to financial models and emotional stamina to keep going in challenging times.
’The Community Energy Strategy has adopted many of our recommendations for supporting mentoring and intermediary organisations, but much more still needs to be done. A huge priority is for government to recognise that many community energy projects are aiming to tackle fuel poverty and develop stronger communities, as well as generating or saving energy. Evaluation and performance monitoring really needs to value these different kinds of results, and not simply focus on the amounts of energy produced.’