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Community Energy Generation

British Academy research project seeking to identify opportunities that promote, and barriers that inhibit, community energy projects in the UK

Understanding cultural contexts around community energy projects

Led by Academy Fellow Professor Tim O'Riordan FBA, this project runs in parallel to the British Academy Debates on Energy and the Environment, which took place in Autumn 2015.

Energy and the Environment: Policy Project - PDF downloadIn June 2015, the Academy released an invitation to tender for a portion of this research. Through this commission, the Academy wishes to understand better the international cultural dimensions to community energy generation, to help inform policy.

Project Working Group:
Professor Tim O'Riordan FBA, University of East Anglia (Chair)
Professor Nigel Gilbert FREng, University of Sussex
Fraser Macleod, DECC
Professor David Newbery FBA, University of Cambridge
Dr Alan Walker, Royal Academy of Engineering
Professor Sarah Whatmore FBA, University of Oxford

The aim of the project was to identify opportunities that promote, and barriers that inhibit, community energy projects in the UK. Our interest is in community energy generation and supply projects, characterised by local ownership, participation and benefit sharing. The approach used was to incorporate comparative institutional analysis with other countries where cooperatives and shared ownership of local energy infrastructure are more common. Barriers to widespread take-up of shared energy generation in the UK may be economic, regulatory, technical, constitutional or political. But there may also be cultural barriers that need to be better understood.

With a view to bridging the evidence gap on energy at local levels, and to understand community energy from a fresh angle, the British Academy issued a competitive tender which invited the selection and exploration of case studies of community energy projects across the world, to understand better the cultural contexts of those projects. Through this process the Academy commissioned Rebecca Willis, Peter Capener and Neil Simcock (Independent Researchers working in collaboration with Lancaster University and advised by Patrick Devine-Wright and Gordon Walker) to produce a set of eleven international case studies under the theme “Cultures of Community Energy”.

The case studies, initial findings and suggestions for actions were developed into a set of findings and suggestions for actions by the project working group. These were then discussed during a stakeholder workshop hosted by the British Academy in March 2016. This workshop brought together a wide range of stakeholders involved in community energy, including community energy practitioners, policy makers, industry representatives, finance providers, not-for profit organisations and academics. The aim was to facilitate a collective discussion on what is required for local energy projects to thrive in the context of a changing policy and fiscal environment, and to identify actions for policy makers and communities. The policy report sets out the working group findings and the discussions at this stakeholder event.To complement these reports, the British Academy also published a Community brief and a Policy brief, highlighting the findings and recommendations for action relevant to communities interested in setting up energy projects and to local and national policymakers.

The report has been launched at the House of Commons on 24 May 2016. The reception was kindly hosted by Angus MacNeil MP, Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee  and included speeches from Dr Alan Whitehead, Shadow Energy and Climate Change Minister and Alun Evans, Chief Executive of the British Academy.

Read the Cultures of Community Energy case studies report here.

Read the Cultures of Community Energy policy report here.

Read the Cultures of Community Energy community brief here.

Read the Cultures of Community Energy policy brief here.



Tara Vernhes
Public Policy Officer