Community energy groups in the North East

What factors will enable the successful development of the sector?

Project duration: December 2020 to June 2021

It’s widely acknowledged that achieving net zero will require individuals, communities and businesses to think differently about how they heat their buildings, power their transport and generate their power. However, it is less well understood how we will bring about those changes.

Community energy groups offer one pathway. Community energy can include things like wind turbines or solar farms set up by local people; community groups offering energy advice to people in their neighbourhood; householders opening their homes to showcase their eco-renovations; locally established retrofit projects; insulation giveaways; green tariff switches; and neighbourhood car-sharing clubs.

But in some parts of the UK there is more community activity than others. The North East (including Tees Valley) currently has one of the lowest concentrations of community energy projects in Great Britain.

To help understand why, and to explore how the deficit could be addressed, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership alongside North of Tyne Combined Authority, Durham County Council and South Tyneside Council appointed us in partnership with VONNE (Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East) and Community Energy England to undertake research and produce a report.

The report identified four potential goals for building a thriving and successful community energy sector in the North East:

  1. By mid-2023 all regional leaders view community energy as integral to addressing the climate emergency and, as they are reviewed and updated specific targets and resource allocations are integrated into the delivery for net-zero outlined in key local plans and policies.
  2. By mid-2023, 50-250 VCSE, academic and research organisations are working together collectively, along with local authorities, combined authorities, the LEP and Northern Powergrid in the North East region to develop and deliver impactful community energy initiatives. 
  3. Between 2022 and 2025 a minimum of 50-100 communities will be supported to explore local needs and opportunities for community-based energy projects that reduce carbon emission, deliver local benefits and address challenges of fuel poverty and social exclusion. 
  4. By 2023, there are 25-50 new community energy projects underway covering a range of different domains, in rural and urban areas, and led by and benefitting people from all walks of life.

The project’s findings and recommendations are based on:

  • 75 responses to our ‘Energise your Community’ survey of the voluntary, community, and social enterprise (VCSE) sector in the North East. 
  • Five focus groups with representatives of the VCSE sector, local authorities, and elected members from across the North East’s different authorities. 
  • Ongoing engagement and consultation with Northern Powergrid, Community Energy England, VONNE and a steering group comprised of representatives from each of the commissioning local authorities. 
  • Extensive desk-based research and inputs and insights from community organisations and representatives across the UK.

You can download the report here, and an executive summary here.

For further information contact:

Keith Hempshall | 0117 934 1430

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