Local people taking control of energy generation in their area is the key to a sustainable future, argues Clare Martynski
Whether it’s headlines about rising energy bills, statistics revealing the near rock bottom levels of trust the UK population has in our energy providers or evidence that more families are in fuel poverty than at any time for a decade, it’s clear that our current energy system is under strain and increasingly unfit for purpose.
Transforming this essential system is critical if we are going to shape a brighter, sustainable future. But to do so is also very complex and will require a number of big shifts to occur across the system. Without doubt, there will need to be big, centrally-directed overhauls of infrastructure, and large investment from pension funds and big business will be essential.
But there is another more exciting aspect of this transformation, which is beginning to take hold, and that has captured the imaginations of people across the UK.
Originally driven by a few pioneers with a vision of a more local, cleaner energy future, community energy – local people coming together to generate, own and save their energy – is growing in scale and impact. Since 2008, there have been more than 5,000 UK communities working to transform how they use energy, from owning generation technologies, such as wind turbines and solar panels, to increasing the efficiency of community buildings or local housing stock. And with the recent launch of the government’s Community Energy Strategy, more and more communities are set to receive help and advice on getting projects off the ground.
So, when the level of change required is so huge, why is community energy such an important part of the transformation in the UK?