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Community-owned energy ‘benefits’ local people

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A new study has concluded that community-owned energy schemes have significant environmental benefits and can save local communities money.

Benefits of Community Energy Report was commissioned by Devon County Council (DCC) and the South West Energy Partnership, part of the European Local Energy Assistance programme.

The report is accompanied by a webinar where expert speakers explained the key findings.

Speakers included Cherilyn Mackroy MP, representing the Environmental Audit Committee, CAG Consultants Bill Kirkup, Dave Lawrence and Mary Anderson and Emma Bridge, CEO at Community Energy England.

Also, on the panel are Jake Burnyeat, Managing Director at Communities for Renewables, Matthew Clayton, Managing Director at Thrive Renewables and Patrick Allcorn, Head of Local Energy at Department at BEIS.

The report concluded that for a 30MWp solar farm the additional benefits would generate an additional £15.9m in economic value to the Devon economy.

This added benefit comes from a range of areas. A critical part of community energy groups is their Community Benefit Fund with surpluses invested in social and community projects.

The initial fund created by the group is then able access further funding to invest in community projects, generating additional value.

Evidence shows that investing in these community projects generates more in benefits than the cost of the investment.

Lastly, the investment return to local shareholders means greater income will be retained in the local economy rather than leaking out to external investors.

As this money is spent in the local economy it will generate further rounds of economic activity, supporting additional jobs.

From solar PV to hydro projects, Devon has approximately 25 community energy schemes, more than any other county in England – and the majority of these got off the ground following support by Devon County Council.

The evidence-based study concludes that investing in local, community-owned renewable energy generation projects can deliver better value for money for a local economy than purchasing similar energy from a traditional commercial provider.

The report was completed by CAG Consultants and is based on Treasury Green Book compliant methodology to determine the socio-economic benefits.

The report was launched at an AgroRES webinar as part of the Community Energy Fortnight.

Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for the

Photo of Councillor Andrea Davis
Councillor Andrea Davis

environment and climate change said:  

“I am very proud of the role Devon County Council has played in helping these schemes get off the ground and to hear confirmation by independent consultants of the benefits that they can bring to communities.

“DCC recognises its responsibility to minimise the impact on the environment and that’s why we have more community energy projects in Devon than in any other part of the country.

“I want to thank the panel of experts who will take part in the webinar to discuss the report’s findings and I hope it will help further community projects get off the ground.”