A partnership of community energy support networks
In the UK, the community energy sector is supported by a number of organisations such as Energy4All, Mongoose Energy and Sharenergy, Community Energy South and Communities for Renewables. These organisations are themselves community energy organisations but provide consultancy support to community energy organisations within the sector in areas such as financial modelling, accountancy, community share issue, sourcing finance, and technical expertise around a number of different renewable energy technologies.
The services provided by these organisations help new starter community energy groups to plug any skills gaps they may have in developing their project, at reasonable commercial rates commensurate with community energy projects, and can relieve community groups of time-consuming burdens such as administration and accountancy.
New inexperienced community energy groups can outsource aspects of running their organisations to one of these specialist co-ops, adding vital capacity and ensuring that all of the necessary elements of a community energy project are addressed
These specialist organisations can also help community energy groups promote their share offers nationally
The existence of these specialist groups adds a ‘backbone’ to the sector and stability to individual community energy groups
- A community energy group will need to find the money to pay one of these specialist organisations for their support. However, very often the specialist organisation can help the community energy group to bid for grant funding or other funding to enable them to do this
Evidence of success
- Organisations such as Sharenergy have been operational for many years, including during very difficult times for the community energy sector due to e.g. changes in Government legislation and financial support for the sector
- The majority of new community energy groups use the services of at least one of the specialist organisations to set up and run their projects and societies
Because these specialist support organisations make their income from supporting other groups, when the sector is enduring difficult times, for example when the national Government has removed financial support for community energy, this challenges the viability of the specialist support group
Potential for learning or transfer
- These specialist support organisations very often began their lives as ordinary community energy groups, who have learned how to deliver projects and then begun to re-sell their knowledge via providing services to new start-ups
- In EU regions where community energy groups already exist, there may be potential for them to expand their business activities to supporting other new community energy start-ups