Definition, benefits and potential of community energy

Our definition

Community energy refers to the delivery of community-led renewable energy, energy demand reduction and energy supply projects, whether wholly owned and/or controlled by communities or through partnership with commercial or public sector partners.

Community energy puts people at the heart of the energy system. It brings them together to take democratic climate action by understanding, generating, owning, using, and saving energy. Community energy provides clear accountability and participatory governance within the energy system, which is empowering, transparent and equitable. It accelerates the transition to a zero-carbon energy system while increasing community resilience. And it includes communities which may otherwise be excluded from the energy system. But it’s more than this. Building a zero-carbon energy system is a social issue that requires a just transition. Community energy organisations are already at the forefront of energy system innovation; they have initiated behaviour change, accelerated the decentralisation of the energy system, reduced carbon emissions and upskilled communities across the UK. Community energy does all of this by building the consent, trust and active participation needed to ensure a rapid and just energy transition.

Watch Power to Change's What is Community Energy? video below for a great intro to the sector.

Features and benefits

By placing democratic control, shared benefits and active participation at the centre of project delivery, community energy can create a foundation for the significant infrastructural and cultural change we need to reduce the impact of climate change and increase our energy security.

Where successful, community energy has the potential to draw people in, not just as consumers but also as active participants, or partners, in a process of change. Partners because people share in the benefits, have some say in how things happen, are actively involved and feel a connection with the outcomes.

Community energy has the potential to do this by creating a sense of collective purpose where:

  • I see ‘people like me’ involved, whether family, friends, neighbours, community members, work colleagues
  • I keep hearing about opportunities for involvement through many different local routes, its stops being unusual and becomes ‘what happens around here’
  • I trust the people delivering the projects, I see them around, they’re local
  • I can see tangible benefits for my local area
  • I can see tangible benefits for me

This sense of collective purpose can help to normalise the adoption of demand reduction behaviours and encourage the take up of energy efficiency measures.

If successful, community energy can also help to underpin the more rapid roll out of a decentralised energy system by giving local people a stake in the outcome.

Community Energy England is committed to working with others to move community energy closer to the centre of energy decision making at both national and local levels.

Links & Resources

  • To learn about community energy and see where sector could be in 2030, see our Community Energy Vision.
  • See the 2021 State of the Sector Report, our most recent snapshot of the sector and its potential and challenges.
  • Younity - a brief guide to all the basics of community energy.
  • Thrive Renewables - analysis of the potential of community energy in the UK.
  • Campaign to Protect Rural England - blog about why community energy is the gold standard for renewable energy done well.

Video Resources

Documents & Downloads