UK ROLES team outlines the potential of community energy

The UK ROLES team has responded to the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) call for evidence on Community Energy schemes. The EAC is a UK Parliamentary Select Committee that scrutinises the UK Government’s performance against its environmental policy goals and targets.

The ROLES team has undertaken detailed study of the community energy sector, both for this project and members’ previous work. Community energy has huge potential: modelling suggests that, by 2030, the sector could grow up to 20-fold, powering around 2.2 million homes. Good examples of community energy schemes are already in place around the UK, for example the Bristol Energy Co-operative, which has installed over 9MW of solar and battery assets.

The main barriers to a greater role for community energy is the lack of adequate market access mechanisms, and the lack of any guiding strategy or document from central Government. The UK Government has no vision for the sector, and has not outlined any future scenarios where community energy plays a significant role.

This support is necessary, as community energy struggles to compete on a pure price per kWh basis with large scale, conventionally funded schemes. It does, however, bring a raft of other benefits, including job creation, skills development, local economic development and potential improvements in pro-environmental behaviour.

Digitisation, as studied in ROLES, could potentially bring benefits to Community Energy schemes. However, facilitation of smart grid systems, and citizen acceptance, will required clear data protections, and assurances that the economic benefits of energy data will not be unfairly exploited. Public perception of data gathered by, for example, smart meters show limited trust in data protection systems.

Our evidence will be published once it is accepted by the Environmental Audit Committee.

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