A new report, commissioned by the North East LEP in partnership with the North of Tyne Combined Authority, Durham County Council and South Tyneside Council, has today shone a light on the vital opportunity that community energy projects present in the region. Andrew Clark, Energy Lead at the North East LEP, explains more.
It is with great pleasure that we today welcome the publication of the North East Community Energy Study.
Never has the need to tackle the climate emergency been more urgent and this important piece of research has brought us a step closer to supporting our communities to benefit from the move to net zero.
Community energy projects are initiatives led by local communities, with an emphasis on community ownership, leadership or control, where the community benefits. They can include things like wind turbines or solar farms that have been set up by local people or aim to benefit the community, community groups offering energy advice to people in their neighbourhood, green tariff switches and car sharing clubs.
As a region, the North East historically has the lowest amount of community energy projects in the UK. To help address this, the North East LEP commissioned the North East Community Energy Study in partnership with the North of Tyne Combined Authority, Durham County Council and South Tyneside Council.
The aim was to carry out in-depth research on what structure, mechanisms, models and support would enable the successful development and delivery of more community energy projects in the North East LEP area. The report will inform the approach and actions taken by regional stakeholders.
The Benefits of Community Energy
Community energy projects have typically been developed in response to climate change concerns, as community groups set out to reduce carbon emissions. However, reducing emissions is just one of the benefits that motivates community organisations to develop energy projects. Community energy projects have been used to generate income for social and environmental focused community development projects, raise awareness around energy use and climate change, improve local economic resilience, create community cohesion and tackle fuel poverty.
The North East Picture
The North East LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan identifies Energy as one of four areas of strategic importance that could improve the North East’s economic competitiveness and community energy is identified as one of the 13 key strategic themes highlighted in the Energy for Growth strategy. Creating a community owned green energy company is part of the North of Tyne Mayor’s Manifesto.
The North East region has a number of community organisations involved in energy initiatives but few dedicated community energy groups. A similar situation is found in neighbouring regions such as Yorkshire and the Humber where there are nine active community energy groups.
Making a Difference Locally
Developing a clear approach to supporting delivery of community led energy projects in the North East, and ensuring wider successful involvement of communities in projects, should be an important part of our regional approach to net zero. This report has carried out extensive engagement with community groups and the regional partners that could be part of a supporting ecosystem for projects. The intelligence gathered will now inform practical steps that can be taken by regional stakeholders to progress the community energy projects that will make a difference locally whilst being part of something bigger.
You can read the Executive Summary and full North East Community Energy Study report on the North East Evidence Hub.