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Future Energy Landscapes

Local residents discuss renewable energy options for their neighbourhood

Our community consultation method helps local planning authorities and civic society accelerate renewable energy deployment.

Project duration: September 2021 ongoing

We know we need to increase renewable energy capacity (to about four times its current level) to address the climate crisis. But how can we do this while maintaining public support?

We also know that public support for renewable energy is at an all-time high, yet why does this support often disappear the moment a planning application is submitted?

Research suggests the following reasons:

In other words, most people understand the need to scale up renewable energy to phase out fossil fuels. But at the same time they have legitimate expectations that they should be able to meaningfully influence how, where and what renewable energy projects will happen within their communities and landscapes.

These expectations are not being fulfilled by current community engagement approaches. More nuanced public engagement processes are vital if we’re to roll out renewable energy at scale.

The workshops give the council and councillors confidence that local support for renewables matches national public opinion. Policy needs to be – and can be – bold.

Michaela Basford, Team Manager for the Green Transformation Service at Bath & North East Somerset council

Watch a recent recording of one of our workshops…

Future Energy Landscapes open toolkit

CSE has refined and is rolling out bottom-up approach to community engagement, called Future Energy Landscapes (FEL). The approach is effective in supporting local planning authorities to develop ambitious planning policies for renewable deployment in their areas, while maintaining community support. See our blog here on a typical recent experience.

Marchelle lives in Wellow and took part in the workshop. Here is what she said about it:

A Future Energy Landscapes (FEL) toolkit has been published by CSE as an open source and free-to-use methodology for local planning authorities, parish councils and community energy groups.

Based on our practical experience of delivering FEL workshops in eight different locations – both on behalf of neighbourhood planning groups and local planning authorities – the toolkit can be used for:

All the resources and guidance to enable you to run your own workshops and consultations are available below. These include:

The main FEL guidance document provides an overview of what the Future Energy Landscapes approach is and how to use it.

Download the toolkit

Plus here are four accompanying resource packs: facilitation pack; promotion pack, CESAR tool pack (basic version); CESAR tool pack (advanced version for community energy and neighbourhood planning groups). You can access and download all four here. This is a zipped folder containing multiple folders and files.

One of the files contains links to the CESAR videos which you can also access using the links below:

Film 1: Generating electricity from renewables sourcesClick to download
Film 2: Generating heat from renewable sourcesClick to download
Film 3: Generating heat and electricity from the same sourceClick to download
Film 4: Energy savingClick to download
Clicking on these links will open a film on YouTube.

The essence of our approach is that we set the community the challenge to meet more of their energy demand from local renewable sources. We provide unbiased resources so people learn about the issues, and sufficient time and autonomy to consider the pros and cons of different options. And we support them in developing a shared understanding around what would be acceptable in their community.

When the issue of renewable energy is approached in this way, ambitious community scale energy plans can be developed. And because the workshop participants have gone through this thought process themselves, they own the outputs and are more likely to support local plans or policies based on them.

Find out how we’ll be sharing the Future Energy Landscape community engagement approach to inform renewable energy planning and policy in Wales.

The project is funded by the MCS Charitable Foundation, with match funding from North Somerset and Bath & North East Somerset councils.

The findings from our North Somerset workshops are available in our report here

The findings from our Bath & North East Somerset workshops are available in our report here.

In each workshop, participants supported more renewable energy in their area. This confirms that even in sensitive landscapes such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Green Belt, people are open to discussing all forms of renewable energy. The report lays out what renewable energy options participants would regard as acceptable in the future, and includes policy recommendations for North Somerset Council based on suggestions that have local support.

Please get in touch to receive free training and updates on this approach or for a quotation.

Neighbourhood planning

For planning advice and assistance to draft a low carbon neighbourhood plan for your community, please contact us for a quotation.

This work is supported by