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Everything you need to know about community energy

Younity blog | Oct 2022

Wind turbines

You may see us talk about community energy a lot, and that’s because it’s what we’re passionate about. We understand that not everyone is as clued up as we are, so we’ve put together a guide on everything you need to know.

What is community energy?

So, what is community energy? It’s simple, it’s energy that is created by and run for the benefit of local level communities. It creates energy that is sustainable and better for the planet, while also providing money to invest back into the community.

Read our blog on the history of community energy to find out where it all started.

How many projects are there in the UK? 

According to the State of the Sector report 2021, there are currently 424 Community energy organisations in the UK all providing power for their communities. 

To find out more about these projects and the type of energy being produced, here the State of the Sector 2021 Report or find out the community energy projects we support here at Younity.

What are the different areas of community energy?

These 424 organisations are involved in five distinct areas of low carbon activities, including electricity generation, energy storage, energy efficiency, heat generation and low carbon transport.

Let us explain:

What is energy generation?
Energy generation involves communities installing renewable energy generating projects in the local area, this can include harnessing solar, wind or hydro power. 

In 2020, the biggest generator of renewable energy was solar, generating 155.4 MW of power, followed by wind generating 33.6 MW of power, and then hydro generating 4.9 MW of power.

What is energy storage?

Energy storage is equally as important as generating energy as once the energy has been generated, we need places to store it. Energy can be stored in heat and battery storage and by the end of 2020 there were 39 Community-led energy storage projects. Even though the costs of running an energy storage project have decreased in recent years, the cost of setting up the project initially is high, meaning many of these projects are fuelled by investors.

What is energy efficiency?

Energy efficiency is about conserving the energy generated and making sure it is used as efficiently as possible. Local groups can undertake activities to help their communities improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Providing workshops and advice groups, installing smart meters, adding insulation to homes, creating energy cafes, and using energy-efficient lighting are all ways to be more energy-efficient and reduce energy bills.

What is heat generation?

Heat generation involves harnessing energy from heat, this can include solar thermal energy, ground or air source heat pump or using biomass. It is much harder for communities to get involved due to high installation costs which is why only 2.1 MW of energy was generated from community-owned heat generation projects in England in 2020. 

What is low carbon transport?

Low carbon transport has the aim of reducing the amount of emission from the transport industry which has been pretty much unchanged since 1990. In 2020, there were 47 community-led low carbon transport projects compared to 29 projects in 2019, so projects are increasing but again as costs fall, we estimate more projects will be created.

What are the benefits of community energy?

We love community energy, and you should too. It provides benefits in two key areas: economic benefits and social benefits.

What are the economic benefits of community energy projects?

There are lots of economic benefits, including:

•    Low-cost energy generation for homes, community buildings and schools.
•    Fuel poverty is reduced.
•    Dividend payments to local investors.
•    Reduced costs for locals when energy efficiency upgrades are implemented.
•    Reduced transportation cost when EV charging infrastructure is introduced.
•    Increase in local jobs.
•    Development of community benefit funds to prolong impact.

Even though initially there will be costs related to starting and creating a renewable energy project, over time you will receive more and more economic benefits.

What are the social benefits of community energy projects?

As well as economic benefits, there are many social benefits, including:

•    Improved sense of community with local people working together to benefit their community and achieve something together
•    Local social opportunities
•    Potential for increased local prosperity strengthens community
•    Community energy can help fund local community projects
•    Increase social cohesion, creating new networks and connections between individuals
•    Help education of energy efficiency further afield in the area

What do we do at Younity?

Our planet needs community energy to thrive. Younity exists to support a growing sustainable energy movement; one that’s driven by the power and passion of local communities. If you’re looking to join thousands of other supporters and make a change and spread positive energy in the UK then get in touch or you can sell your community energy here.