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Delivering on Labour’s clean energy mission

An electricity pylon against a blue sky.
9 July 2024

A greener, smarter, fairer energy system is within reach.

The potential for a greener, smarter and fairer energy system came closer with the Labour government’s Green Power Mission and its pledge to decarbonise the electricity system by 2030. This contains suitable ambitious plans including the creation of Great British Energy, a publicly owned clean power company. Labour’s goal is to double onshore wind and triple solar power development. And they aim to collaborate with local authorities and co-operatives to install clean power projects, encouraging community leadership.

Underscoring this commitment, just four days after the election the new government lifted the ban on onshore wind.

This breakthrough, together with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero’s (DEZNZ) recent call for evidence on community energy barriers, presents an unprecedented opportunity to re-imagine our energy landscape.

At CSE, we bring extensive experience of supporting communities and local councils to take climate action, and empowering community groups to develop energy projects. We’re eager to share our insights to help realise the new government’s ambitious goals.

We envision empowered communities spearheading the transition to a just, low-carbon future. By leveraging local initiatives and addressing key obstacles, we can construct a resilient, community-driven energy system that combats climate change, strengthens our economy, and reduces energy bills.

Four key pillars for success 

To turn this vision into reality, four crucial areas need addressing: 

  1. Building capacity in the community energy sector.
  2. Nurturing informed consent for renewable energy development. 
  3. Improving market access and scalable business models for community energy projects. 
  4. Securing local benefits for communities that host renewable energy projects.  

Let’s explore each in more detail. 

1) Building capacity in the community energy sector 

We must raise awareness to grow the community energy sector. This means integrating community energy into local democratic structures and processes like town and parish councils and neighbourhood planning, encouraging local authorities to convene local civil society and raise awareness of how community energy initiatives can help deliver local aspirations. Many local authorities have climate officers already doing this. 


Promote community energy through existing democratic structures like town and parish councils and neighbourhood plans 

Success story: North-East Energy Hub

CSE recently supported the North-East Energy Hub’s community energy fund. Through a series of introductory webinars, we’ve seen community groups with no prior interest in renewable energy engage enthusiastically, learning from more mature groups. This demonstrates the power of knowledge-sharing networks in building sector capacity. We need much more of this, and networks at a variety of scales. 

Community energy groups usually start small, often with awareness raising initiatives and smaller, simpler projects, often not generation projects. So new groups need easy access to micro-funding to deliver small, easy to deliver climate projects to build their confidence.  Many will then move on to more ambitious renewable energy project development. 


Foster innovation and collaboration through increased investment in learning and capacity building across the community energy sector. In particular groups need early-stage support to help them understand the evolving energy market and the opportunities for community level action. Establish stronger networks at regional, national, and UK-wide scales to share resources and viable business models. 

2) Nurturing informed consent for renewable energy development 

Labour’s manifesto talks about “inviting communities to come forward with projects”. That’s great for communities which already have concrete proposals, but communities need some help to initiate these projects and build support for them, beyond promoting community energy through neighbourhood plans. 

Project ideas rarely come forward without a structure through which they can emerge, and many communities are fearful of raising the issue of renewable energy which (wrongly in our experience) is perceived as a controversial topic. 

CSE has developed Future Energy Landscapes a proven, non-confrontational process through which communities can consider at an early stage, how and where renewable energy projects might be developed around them, the types and scales of renewable energy which might be acceptable, the landscape impacts they’d accept and how they might benefit. It builds on the best evidence available locally of the renewable energy projects that could feasibly be developed. 

Communities need structured approaches to generate project ideas and agree suitable locations. Our Future Energy Landscapes (FEL) methodology provides an effective approach through which communities can explore renewable energy options. 

Case Study: Rural community embraces clean energy using Future Energy Landscapes

In 12 out of 16 workshops, communities identified support for sufficient renewable energy to exceed their local electricity demand. Furthermore, twelve communities expressed majority support for the development of onshore wind. With the lifting of the ban on onshore wind, they’ll now be able to progress.  

With this type of approach, most rural communities could become self-sufficient in renewable electricity generation, all whilst maintaining public support. Imagine how far this could take us towards a zero-carbon electricity system.  

Future Energy Landscapes and similar bottom-up approaches from Low Carbon Oxford and Friends of the Earth are great ways for communities to initiate project ideas, and community energy groups are already using FEL in this way.  

One group that has done just that is Energise South Downs which is delivering 10 workshops across the South Downs to discover the types and scale of renewable energy that could meet the needs of local people.

“Future Energy Landscapes has allowed us to start conversations with local communities about the potential for locally generated renewable energy and allowing us to both educate and dispel the myths about renewable energy technologies, says Catriona Cockburn.  

Ben, an attendee to one of the workshops, said: “Being asked how we would like our future to look and then to see the extent to which each renewable technology could meet our energy needs was wonderful and revealing. The workshop made me believe our parish could do something that I thought was impossible.”

These kinds of approaches could also be adapted for use by Great British Energy to avoid the impression of imposing projects on communities.   


Government should promote and disseminate non-confrontational and community-led approaches like FEL to build consent for renewable energy expansion and initiate project ideas. 

A group of people attending a Future Energy Landscapes event
A Future Energy Landscapes workshop in action.

3) Improving market access and scalable business models for community energy projects 

The removal of the Feed-in Tariff has made it much more difficult for community energy groups to develop community-scale generation projects i.e. less than 5 MW. We understand that the falling cost of both wind and solar projects mean that subsidies are no longer necessary, but these projects still need a sure route to market. This is currently lacking. 

Success story: the Avonmouth Wind Turbine

What began as a conversation among neighbours in Lawrence Weston, a struggling estate on Bristol’s outskirts, grew into an extraordinary achievement. This community of 7,000 people, facing high levels of deprivation, came together to drive positive change. 

In 2012, residents formed Ambition Lawrence Weston, determined to improve their area. Their efforts led to a community climate action plan, income from a nearby solar farm, and sustainable design policies in their Neighbourhood Plan. 

The crowning achievement came in June 2023 when England’s largest community-owned wind turbine began operation in Avonmouth. This 4.2 MW turbine now generates enough clean electricity to power every home in Lawrence Weston. 

This project demonstrates how small beginnings can lead to significant community energy achievements, transforming not just the local energy landscape but the entire community’s future. Read more about the journey here. 

Drone-eye view of a large wind turbine in an industrial estate close to the coastline.
Lawrence Weston’s community wind turbine at Avonmouth. At 4.2 MB, this is the biggest community owned wind turbine in England. 


4) Securing local benefits for communities that renewable energy projects 

Labour is right that local people should benefit directly from local energy production.  

We know that most communities are willing to host sufficient renewable energy to meet and exceed their electricity demand. However, in all cases this was subject to the community benefiting from hosting this infrastructure.  

Our experience shows that how you feel about nearby wind turbines or solar farms, rather depends on who owns them.  


Create a statutory definition of community energy in planning law. And enable the positive benefits achieved by community energy schemes to be considered as material considerations in planning decisions. 

The path forward 

The path to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 is ambitious but achievable. Community involvement is not just desirable, it’s essential. Our experience shows that when communities are engaged, informed, and empowered they become powerful allies in the transition to smarter, fairer and greener energy system. 

At CSE, we’re committed to turning these insights into action. We’re ready to work with the new government, local authorities and communities to build a robust, inclusive community energy sector. Together, we can create an energy system that’s not only clean but also fair and responsive to local needs. 

The climate crisis demands bold action. We think Labour’s pledge for 100% renewable electricity by 2030 is great, as is the proposed involvement of communities to help make it happen, but we haven’t seen much of a delivery plan yet. We want to help make it happen, and we think there’s lessons to learn from the work we’ve done with communities.  

Let’s harness the power of community energy to fuel the change we need. Join us in this crucial mission because when communities lead, a more equitable transition follows. 

CSE’s full response: Barriers to Community Energy

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