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Community energy support for local councils

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23 February 2023

Hundreds of councils have declared climate emergencies and are planning climate action across their local area. But tackling the climate crisis can be a daunting task, especially for councils that may not have access to large budgets, resources or staff.

What support is available to assist councils in developing their local climate plans? Plans should be beneficial to the local area and have the most impact.

Knowing where to start is tricky. There’s a lot of information out there that can be hard to digest if you don’t have specialist knowledge on things like renewable energy, carbon footprinting and climate action.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) has a dedicated community team that helps local councils navigate these issues. Throughout your planning process, we have open-source tools and in-depth, tailored services for you to use.

Open source tools for local councils

Understanding your local carbon footprint

A logical start is to find where your community’s emissions are coming from. The Impact: Community Carbon Calculator splits your local emissions into helpful categories like heating, transport, food and diet, and waste. The tool allows you to compare your area to others and against the national average. You’ll see where you can focus your climate action efforts to produce meaningful results.

Tatham Parish Council used Impact and discovered home heating emissions were very high in their area. The council began to engage with their community through surveys, a new ‘Carbon Committee’ and a retrofit (energy saving home improvement) programme. This activity supported the local community in understanding why using less energy at home is important and gave them practical steps to take action.

Meaningful community engagement for local renewables 

CSE’s Future Energy Landscapes (FEL) approach puts communities at the heart of energy planning. While developing this approach, CSE realised a common problem; while initial support for local renewable energy projects was strong, in practice, the same projects get rejected when planning goes in. The disconnect is largely down to communities feeling left out of the development process.

The FEL approach creates positive collaboration between community members and their parish and town councils. All parties can explore what a low-carbon transition might look like in their area, providing their opinion or raising potential issues. With all voices heard, support is more likely to last throughout the project. The methodology is available for free, and we also provide regular workshops.

Planning for solar power in your area

CSE is currently developing an intuitive solar calculator, called the Solar Wizard, to support more people and communities to generate solar power. The app will provide easy, quick, accurate and independent predictions about the viability of solar PV on buildings and homes. It can be used by individual households, communities and local authorities to accelerate decision-making and investment planning. The initial launch of the solar calculator will be in Spring.

Bespoke community energy training and action plans

As well as online resources and workshops, CSE also offers services and training that target sustainability barriers in a community. This ranges from training volunteers to be the go-to energy experts in an area to help raise awareness, to developing a unique action plan to reduce emissions and reach net zero targets.

Creating a targeted action plan

CSE’s Climate Action days support local (parish and town) councils in developing their community action plans. The Climate Action days explore how to build an understanding of climate change in your area and what climate action looks like in practice. So far CSE has supported over 500 councillors and clerks through our Climate Action Days.

The day was excellent! I was sceptical about the whole thing but…the [climate action] message has become easier to understand; it’s personal and effective and relevant to parish councils, as we can, and should, act as ambassadors.

Gill, a recent attendee

The collaborative days boost motivation to tackle climate change and enable participants to connect with other councils on their net zero journeys. Through networking groups participants continue to share resources, knowledge and projects post-event. This is particularly beneficial for local parish councils to work together and coordinate approaches.

Energy Champion training 

Energy champions are local volunteers who provide basic energy-saving support and signposting to advice services. This knowledge helps people understand how to reduce their energy consumption and make energy efficiency improvements to their homes.

Every person has a role to play in the transition to net zero, energy champions are trusted members of the community who share practical advice and resources to highlight how people can make changes in their day-to-day. CSE offers support with recruiting and training local Energy Champions.

Carbon literacy training for local councils and community groups (not accredited)

CSE offers carbon literacy training for local councils (councillors and clerks) and the wider community to raise awareness of climate change. This training helps people understand the causes and impacts of climate change and provides practical ways communities can adapt and mitigate against it.

Speak to our communities team to find out the best approach for your area

CSE’s communities team can help your local area at any stage of your net zero journeys. If the UK is to meet its 2050 targets, we need bold ideas and meaningful action plans. Our skilled team can find a solution suited to an area’s individual needs and requirements.

Find out how we can help your council

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