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What is Community Energy?

Younity blog | Jul 2023

Community Energy

In a world faced with the challenges of climate change and a problematic reliance on fossil fuels, the concept of community energy can offer a bit of hope. But what exactly is it? And why is it vital in our transition to net zero and a key player in our fight for a greener future?

The Basics of Community Energy 

Community energy refers to the generation of power at a local level by communities themselves. The crucial distinction lies in the fact that this energy is owned by the communities, produced exclusively from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and water, ensuring its kindness to our planet. What makes the concept truly extraordinary is that it allows for the sale of this clean energy through ethical community energy programs or renewable energy tariffs, and any surplus profits go back into that community. And that's where Younity comes in — our mission is to facilitate and empower the realisation of this vision.

In short, community energy is a collaborative approach in which local communities utilise renewable energy sources to better the future of the people around them through community initiatives and better, cleaner energy...

The Benefits of Community Energy 

As well as being kind to the planet, community energy projects have numerous other positive benefits over the use of fossil fuel based energy sources.

These are as follows:
- Local economic development - The projects create jobs and attract investments, improving lives and allowing energy spending to be kept within the community.
- Energy independence - With less reliance on fossil fuels from huge oil companies, the use of community energy initiatives allows communities to generate their own energy and therefore have more control.
- Education, awareness and guidance - By promoting a renewable culture within the community, it is easier to spread awareness of the practice of community energy and renewable sources throughout friends and families.
- Technological Innovation - Just like everything, with new projects comes new technological development as engineers want to find a way to make processes easier and cheaper for all involved.
- Bringing the community together - through active participation and empowerment in the projects and a sense of ownership, the community led energy projects bring everyone who is involved together.

Whether it be wind or solar power, everyone involved benefits from community energy initiatives. By generating clean, green energy through community energy, the planet and the people always come out on top.

Hands holding the Earth

Read the Younity case studies to learn about how with Younity’s help, communities can benefit from local energy initiatives. Whether it be innovation projects such as the Low Carbon Hub or education based initiatives for example Tamar Energy Community in partnership with Plymouth University.

How does Community Energy work? 

Community Energy initiatives allow the local community to develop, own and manage renewable energy projects allowing them to support the community’s energy needs and reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

Community Energy harnesses the power from wind and solar power projects and gives back to the community. The process usually involves:

- Project development - Community energy initiatives can range from small scale projects to huge onshore wind and solar farms. Rigorous planning goes into the projects to ensure that they’re benefitting as much of the community as possible. It’s vital that the energy distribution is fair and efficiently managed.
- Financing - the projects will be community owned, so money is raised to build such projects through community share raises and crowdfunds. Locals that invest get a return once the project starts generating electricity. Younity can support with small grants and its loan offering, Community Energy Kickstart.
- Energy generation - The energy generated from projects is fed into the local grid or used directly for smaller buildings and businesses. Younity can support by buying the electricity generated through Power Purchase Agreements.
- Giving back to the community - Community energy projects contribute but putting surplus profits back into the community, fostering job creation, and spurring local economic growth and engagement.

Solar energy community

Through community owned solar panels and wind farms, renewable energy generation and energy independence can be the new norm. Local energy projects can help us push closer to net-zero communities whilst increasing energy resilience and giving back to the community all at the same time.

Overcoming challenges in community energy initiatives 

Community energy groups can often face challenges when developing local renewable energy projects. These challenges can include policy constraints, resource availability, financial barriers and grid integration and infrastructure. All of these, and more, can affect the development potential of the proposed project and often slow down the process.

By utilising available resources, actively involving stakeholders, promoting education and adopting a proactive approach, community energy groups can work to navigate obstacles and increase the likelihood of successful project implementation.

It’s vital the surrounding community, no matter how big or small, feels involved and engaged, as this really helps nurture the project and further promotes awareness and encourages active participation. This can be done through meetings, workshops, local events and campaigns so that everyone in the local area is engaged and empowered.

Financially, applying for grants and loans through initiatives such as Younity’s Community Energy Kickstart can really help plug the funding gap for community energy projects…

Take Bristol Energy Cooperative’s rooftop solar project at the Bottleyard Studios in Hengrove, South Bristol. With help from Younity and their Community Energy Kickstart initiative, Bristol Energy Coop were able to install a huge solar array consisting of over 2000 panels to the top of the film studios. Through this installation, the solar panels can produce enough energy to power 250 homes per year, whilst also promoting education and awareness of the benefits of similar projects, and also winning a few awards along the way.

What’s next for community energy? 

With increased energy demand and fuel poverty, the requirement for clean, green energy projects is consistently on the rise.

So, what’s next for community energy? The sector has great potential, and there’s space in every community for community wind or solar projects, especially if everyone focuses on long term sustainability of the projects and sees it as part of their future.

Community energy could become a huge part of increasing energy security in the UK, and reducing our carbon emissions to better the planet we know and love. But, the climate crisis must be taken seriously for this to be the case, we can’t keep on accepting rising fuel prices and increased greenhouse gases, it’s not the future we deserve!

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