3 Great Community Energy Engagement ModelsPosted by lucylangdon in blog July 25, 2012
3 Great Community Energy Engagement Models
From local carbon saving initiatives to neighbourhood investment in renewables, thousands of community groups across the UK are taking action on energy issues – many of them with great success.
So how are they doing it? These case studies look at three different organisations’ approaches (chosen because I’m familiar with them and because I think they’re great examples) who are engaging communities on energy issues.
1. Repowering South London
This group came to visit Futerra HQ a few months ago for a Lunch and Learn. Their story is an inspiring one. In spring this year, they announced London’s first community-owned solar power project to be built on social housing.
The project is called Brixton Energy Solar 1 and I get to see the building these solar panels are on every day on my commute. The energy generated is expected to save over 20 tonnes of carbon each year.
Repowering South London raised its £75,000 target by asking for investment from individuals in the community. The minimum investment was £250.
How it engages stakeholders: The tagline for this project is ‘Power to, for and by the people’, and this really captures why this project has been so successful. In the words of one investor, Brixton Energy Solar 1 provides “a real way to be part of a real change for the environment”.
What happens next: Agamemnon Otero, a Project Manager for Brixton Energy Solar 1, is excited about the future because he sees the project as more than an opportunity to cut carbon emissions: instead, it’s about “transforming people’s perception about the energy they consume”.
2. Bristol City Council
Just last weekend, Bristol was named runner up in the European Green Capital Award – the only UK city to have ever reached the finals. Many different groups and individuals contribute to Bristol’s green successes – one of these is its council.
Bristol City Council is investing in several different carbon cutting initiatives – from Draught Busting Saturdays to free DIY loft insulation for homeowners. But it’s the Bristol Community Energy Catalyst Fund that’s most relevant here.
This £50,000 fund helps community projects move from a proposal to a functioning enterprise by loaning the cash to overcome business development challenges like market research and technical analysis.
How it engages stakeholders: I think the secret to this fund’s success can be found in Bristol City Councillor Neil Harrison’s words: “The Council has a strong strategy for renewable energy production and energy efficiency, but no organisation has all the answers.”
By opening their doors (and their coffers) to community projects with the message that their help is needed, Bristol City Council is giving these groups the motivation and the means to take charge of their shared energy future.
What happens next: The council asks that groups, whenever possible, treat the fund as an investment to be repaid during the early success of their project – which means that £50k pot will keep replenishing. The council also asks funded projects to ‘open source’ their learning, so any useful products, such as market research, is free for other groups to use.
Futerra is a partner in a European funded project called ENGAGE. The project is an EU-wide communications initiative that gets whole communities, from citizens to public servants to businesses, to commit to playing their part in their local sustainable energy future.
The City of Leicester is one of 12 pioneer cities used by the campaign as an example of how to ENGAGE. Following a communications campaign to raise awareness, citizens, businesses and public servants have made personal and specific commitments to reduce their environmental impact.
How it engages stakeholders: Every time an individual or group makes a commitment to ENGAGE on energy, it’s photographed and promoted on posters around the city. Check out Leicester’s gallery of commitments online and their video about the campaign. Not only does the public nature of the pledge make it more likely that the person making it will keep to it, it also normalises the behaviour for anyone who spots the campaign around town.
What happens next: Leicester will continue to raise awareness of its ENGAGE campaign and to get more and more people and groups to commit to changing their behaviour. There are already nearly fifty other ENGAGE cities across the EU – take a look at Helsinki, Pamplona and Bielsko-Biala for some wonderful examples of what an ENGAGE campaign can achieve.
The number of ENGAGEd cities is growing all the time, thanks in part to the advocacy of those already involved, and in part to the growing hub of online resources (such as this guide to preparing an ENGAGE campaign).
And if you’re wondering where the second UK ENGAGE city might pop, we’ve heard that York has expressed interest!