Community energy refers to the delivery of community-led renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
Community projects keep money in the Devon economy, reduce carbon emissions, increase our energy security and help address fuel poverty.
For a typical community-owned renewable energy scheme, the finance for purchasing the equipment, for example, solar panels or a biomass boiler for a community building, is raised through a share offer which enables local people to own part of the installation.
Revenue from selling the energy is used to maintain the equipment, provide a modest return to investors and establish a community fund that can be spent on other local priorities, such as helping vulnerable people reduce their energy costs. The building occupier benefits from reduced-cost energy and the environment benefits from low carbon energy production.
Community organisations generating energy and/or providing energy advice in Devon are represented by the Devon Community Energy Network.
Understanding the Benefits of Community Energy
The 2018 Devon Community Energy Impact Report, commissioned by Devon County Council and Regen on behalf of the 23 community energy groups across the county, shows how Devon is taking a leading role in the UK’s community energy revolution, and demonstrates the environmental, economic and social benefits that community energy projects are providing throughout the county. Devon County Council has contributed to this success through offering grants, training opportunities, consultancy support and networking since 2011.
Devon Community Energy: Socio Economic Impact Assessment Report (2021) was commissioned by Devon County Council and the South West Energy Partnership, funded by the European Local Energy Assistance programme.
The report concludes that community-owned energy schemes have significant environmental benefits and can save local communities money.
Community Energy Fund
The £200,000 Community Energy Fund has been launched in September 2021 to support the recovery of businesses and the wider economy of Devon following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The key objective of this fund is to support, develop and fund a small number of high-quality community energy initiatives that will help to advance and strengthen the community energy sector in Devon.
Community Energy Accelerator
The RegenSW Community Energy Accelerator Project ran from June 2014 to June 2017 and incorporated the Devon Community Energy Accelerator Fund. The fund provided over £62,000 of small start-up grants to community energy groups in Devon. A summary report of the Accelerator activity funded by Devon County Council is available here.
A set of online checklists to help community energy groups look at business planning, community engagement, share offers, press releases, investment readiness and social media were also created.
The experience of some of the community energy groups engaged on the Accelerator has been captured in a video which highlights the opportunities available to community energy groups as well as the challenges that Devon County Council is helping local communities overcome.
Community Energy Legal Toolkit
We have prepared a Community Energy Legal Toolkit to help community energy groups understand good practice in developing community energy projects so that their community’s interests are properly protected. The toolkit presents four flowcharts, each of which describes the process for developing a different community energy project – wind, hydro, rooftop solar PV and ground mount solar PV – from convening an enthusiastic group through to commissioning the scheme.