Back in November last year I approached SmartKlub with the idea of carrying-out a research project to gain insight into community energy projects. After a little discussion we decided that the CAPE project could benefit from better understanding the relationship between community energy and local government.
This week I will be explaining that project; the approach we have been taking and some of the ideas we have been testing. In the coming weeks I will share some of the project’s findings and explain what they mean for SmartKlub, local authorities and community groups.
This project is split into two halves; the first involved a series of interviews with energy officers at local authorities. In these interviews we discussed, strategies for energy development, the challenges officers face and the help the sort of support they need to be able to work more closely with their communities. In the second half of this project I turned those interviews into a national survey which could be used to further test some of the trends I began to notice in my interviews.
Both the interviews and the survey explore the perceptions of local authority energy officers. By considering their attitudes, strategies and the resources they have at their disposal we are able to develop assess the challenges they face when supporting community energy order to better understand how CAPE can be used to enhance this relationship.
While it has been challenging to gain access to officers with very busy schedules, everyone who took part in the project was very open and insightful.
After completing my work at SmartKlub I will go on to expand this project to explore the community energy, local authority relationship on its own terms in my MSc dissertation. A project which arose from reports of both groups suffering within the present financial climate.
As many community energy groups will tell you, the biggest support they have had over the years was the Feed-in-Tariff, a straightforward subsidy that has helped many projects get off the ground. As the Feed-in-Tariff has been reduced dramatically over the last few years many community groups have been left in a challenging situation. At the same time local governments (many of whom have signed up to ambitious carbon reduction targets) have had their budgets cut, often by as much as 50%. This presents the questions, can these organisations work together to pool resources and overcome their difficulties.
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