Super-charging community energy with a £1m fund

23 October 2018

A £1m fund and expert support programme has been created to pioneer innovative community-led projects and business models. The Next Generation programme will offer up to ten grants of around £100,000 to community businesses to develop new decentralised, decarbonised, and democratised energy business models.

The initiative is funded by Power to Change, the independent trust that supports community businesses in England. Next Generation will be delivered by a multi-disciplinary consortium (see foot of page for details) led by CSE.

CSE's Rachel Coxcoon is managing the project. "The traditional community energy models - such as owning a wind turbine or large solar array - have become less viable because of changes in government policy. Nevertheless, the move to a smarter and more decentralised energy system offers the community energy sector the chance to explore opportunities in areas like time-of-use tariffs, electric-car charging or battery storage. Next Generation is designed to stimulate innovation in the community business sector and will be open to a wide range of proposals."

Find out more on the Next Generation website.

Power to Change’s Will Walker said: “The way we generate, store and use energy is in the midst of a transformation. Bold new ideas are needed and this fund will not only encourage much-needed innovation, but will also put power into community hands. Ultimately we want to create resilient clean energy communities that can generate their own income, meet their local needs and are less reliant on fossil fuels and global energy markets.”

In addition to the grant programme, there are two further strands.

The first involves buying up to eight up-and-running solar farms from private developers and selling them to the local community groups who will be skilled up and supported by Next Generation to develop other more innovative local energy business models. The transfer of significant renewable energy assets from the private sector to the community sector is being undertaken by Power to Change and a £40m investment programme called Community Owned Renewable Energy LLP. All enquiries about this part of the programme should be directed to CORE.

The second seeks to share the learning and impact for the community energy sector. Working closely with Community Energy England, we will make ensure that all materials and resources emerging from this programme are made available to the whole community energy sector, through a peer mentoring and sector learning scheme. We will also work with industry and policy makers to demonstrate how and why community energy businesses should be central to the energy system transformation. This strand will launch in 2019.

Next Generation will be delivered by seven organisations who have unrivalled experience of designing, setting up and administering major national community energy grant and support programmes: CSE (lead partner), Community Shares Unit, Cooperatives UK, Cooperative Futures, Everoze, Low Carbon Hub, Social and Sustainable Capital and SFW Communications.

Interested parties in the Next Generation programme can join a free webinar about the programme from 17.30 to 18.15pm on Tuesday, 20 November. 

Applications to the fund will be made available on the Next Generation website from 19 November.