Next Generation – innovative support for community energy businesses
Next Generation’s aim is to spur progress and promote growth in the sector, this program encourages innovation, experimentation and sharing of knowledge and best practice to create thriving, sustainable community energy businesses.
Next Generation is being delivered by a multi-disciplinary consortium made up of the Centre for Sustainable Energy (lead partner), Everoze Partners, Low Carbon Hub, Cooperatives UK, Cooperative Futures, Social and Sustainable Capital, and SFW Communications.
The initiative is funded by Power to Change, an independent trust that supports community businesses in England.
By supporting the development of next-generation businesses, the Next Generation programme will help ensure community energy remains a vital and vibrant part of the UK’s energy landscape.
New support for community energy
Traditionally, community energy has worked by community businesses owning and operating renewable energy assets – like solar panels, biomass or wind turbines. In the past, renewable energy projects were financially viable thanks to government supported Feed-in-Tariff programs. These programs enabled the renewable energy assets to generate enough money to cover the operational costs of these businesses. They were able to contribute funds to the community to support local initiatives aimed at addressing climate change, reducing carbon emissions, and alleviating fuel poverty.
However, the Feed-in-Tariff program was discontinued in 2019, resulting in reduced viability for these sorts of projects.
Innovation across the sector
The Next Generation programme is designed to help the sector innovate, test and develop new business models to support community energy to continue to grow and thrive.
The programme also shares learnings across the sector and promotes collaboration between community energy businesses, policymakers and the wider energy industry and community sector, to deliver the energy system transformation that we need to reach net zero.
CSE is working closely with CAG consultants and Community Energy England to ensure that learning and materials generated through the Next Generation programme are widely disseminated for the benefit of the whole sector.
The Next Generation programme is being delivered in three different strands
- Community Solar: Renewable energy asset transfer from the private sector to the community sector
More communities should be able to generate their own energy and reinvest the profits to benefit local people. In this part of the programme, CSE is working with CORE LLP partners to support community energy organisations to take community ownership of ground mounted solar arrays (40 MGW in total).
The Next Generation programme has supported community groups in five locations with grants and capacity building support to form and equip them with the knowledge, skills and opportunities to take ownership of these solar assets. The programme has also awarded funding to these groups to develop new innovative long-term projects that deliver against local needs and priorities. Projects include an electric passenger ferry service on the River Yealm, an electric cargo bike delivery service on the Isle of Wight and the development of a community owned heat network in Shropshire.
The programme has awarded around £500,000 in grants and in-kind capacity support to Yealm Community Energy, Shropshire and Telford Community Energy, Wight Community Energy and Kent Community Energy. Discover more about these community energy programmes here.
- Innovation fund: New business models for existing community energy groups
The Next Generation Innovation Fund supported 11 community energy organisations to develop and test new business models. Each project received up to £100,000 of grant funding and the support of our consortium to develop their project ideas, test the real-world application of their business models and share this learning to benefit the wider sector.
A variety of business models were tested across England including electric car clubs, heat pump trials, domestic flexibility services and setting up energy service companies for schools and new housing developments. Discover more about these projects here.
- Peer mentoring for the community energy sector
Working closely with Cooperatives UK, CSE selected nine mentors to work with a wide range of community organisations to share knowledge and strengthen the community energy sector through a peer mentoring programme. Discover more about the peer mentoring programme here.
Find out more about the programme
The innovation fund and peer mentoring aspects of the programme are currently finished but the community solar strand is still running.