The community renewables economy: starting up, scaling up and spinning out

Document type
Paper
Author(s)
Harnmeijer, Jelte; Parsons, Matthew; Julian, Caroline
Publisher
ResPublica
Date of publication
1 September 2013
Subject(s)
Community Development and Regeneration
Collection
Social welfare
Material type
Reports

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The UK has a large and growing renewable energy market and world-class wave, tidal, wind and hydro resources. Even solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies, sources of renewable energy that you would not normally associate with the UK, are rapidly being deployed across much of the country. Amidst these unfolding opportunities, many developments that include an element of community involvement have brought important advantages beyond those of purely commercial projects. These advantages include economic and cultural multipliers that, in addition to enabling sustained local development, positively feed back into the broader economy. So dramatic is the effect of these ‘community accelerators’ that it is unlikely that renewable energy and climate change objectives can be met without them. This echoes the experiences of other countries that have successfully developed into ‘renewable energy economies’.

But despite widely acknowledged social and economic benefits, there remain very limited opportunities for communities to participate in energy generation, to the frustration of increasingly ambitious and driven community groups. Most community groups seeking to explore community energy regularly encounter the two most common barriers to entry into this market: overbearing planning restrictions and a dearth of external private investment.
There are several emerging models that could aid community groups attempting to overcome these problems. The most promising of these are joint venture or joint ownership arrangements, which could very quickly become the primary vehicle for growth for community energy projects.

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