Community-led sustainable energy projects are not taken seriously enough by the government, according to a new report from the University of East Anglia (UEA).
Published today, the report looks at how initiatives such as community-owned solar panels, wind turbines and hydro-electricity generators, as well as energy-saving projects, could make big differences in tackling climate change.
But while a ‘Big Society’ ethos has formed part of the legislative programme for the coalition government, and the UK Government’s new Community Energy Strategy has been a big step forward in terms of supporting the emerging sector, researchers say better policy support is still needed to get grassroots environmental projects off the ground.
The research team from UEA and the University of Sussex looked at 12 small-scale projects which aim to reduce energy consumption in local communities across the UK. These included a solar panel project in Brighton, an eco-home development in Bristol, hydro-electricity generation in Cumbria, and a community island buy-out on the Isle of Gigha in Scotland.
They also carried out interviews with the movers and shakers responsible for getting community projects off the ground.
Lead researcher Dr Gill Seyfang, from UEA’s school of Environmental Sciences, said: “The combined pressure of global climate change and threats to energy security mean that we will have to think more radically about sustainable energy. We wanted to know whether energy-saving community projects, run by voluntary organisations, schools, businesses and faith groups, could help.
“We looked at a variety of community energy projects – from community-owned renewable energy generation to energy efficiency projects such as refurbishing a village hall.
“We particularly wanted to know about the kind of knowledge, support and resources these projects needed to really thrive – and compared those needs to what is available to help projects get off the ground.
“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.
“Community energy has a part to play in a sustainable energy future for the UK, but demands joined-up policy support, spanning community development, social inclusion, regeneration, energy and climate change.”
This research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and EDF Energy.
‘A grassroots sustainable energy niche? Reflections on community energy in the UK’ is published in the journal Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions on Monday, May 12.
Lisa Horton | Eurek Alert!
New high energy density automotive battery system from Fraunhofer IISB and international partners
25.08.2015 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
New research may enhance display & LED lighting technology
10.08.2015 | University of Illinois College of Engineering
A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...
A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...
In mountainous regions earthquakes often cause strong landslides, which can be exacerbated by heavy rain. However, after an initial increase, the frequency of these mass wasting events, often enormous and dangerous, declines, in fact independently of meteorological events and aftershocks.
These new findings are presented by a German-Franco-Japanese team of geoscientists in the current issue of the journal Geology, under the lead of the GFZ...
Bacteria do not cease to amaze us with their survival strategies. A research team from the University of Basel's Biozentrum has now discovered how bacteria enter a sleep mode using a so-called FIC toxin. In the current issue of “Cell Reports”, the scientists describe the mechanism of action and also explain why their discovery provides new insights into the evolution of pathogens.
For many poisons there are antidotes which neutralize their toxic effect. Toxin-antitoxin systems in bacteria work in a similar manner: As long as a cell...
It comes when called, bringing care utensils with it and recording how they are used: Fraunhofer IPA is developing an intelligent care cart that provides care staff with physical and informational support in their day-to-day work. The scientists at Fraunhofer IPA have now completed a first prototype. In doing so, they are continuing in their efforts to improve working conditions in the care sector and are developing solutions designed to address the challenges of demographic change.
Technical assistance systems can improve the difficult working conditions in residential nursing homes and hospitals by helping the staff in their work and...
20.08.2015 | Event News
20.08.2015 | Event News
19.08.2015 | Event News
28.08.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
28.08.2015 | Health and Medicine
28.08.2015 | Life Sciences