Operating a community energy organisation

Once a community energy group has been formed (see starting up a group/organisation, inc. structure, registration) it is important to get additional people involved and potentially seek partnerships with local authorities and local business. The support from these groups can be vital to a project's success.

You may want people to join as volunteers to support in the planning and running of community events or you may require specialist skills from an individual or local stakeholder. It is important to plan how you will approach people and gather support.

Behaviour change is an important part of getting people involved. Understanding individual and group motivations and drivers is essential for developing strategies to encourage participation. Useful information on the EVALOC project has been made available which includes content on behaviour change activity through community projects. This was a collaboration between researchers from the Low Carbon Building Group at Oxford Brookes University and the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. Several toolkits are available to help groups wanting to try the peer support group approach to sustainable behaviour change:

  • Manorhouse PACT works with EcoActive to support groups in London through its Closer Neighbours initiative.
  • The South West Diocese of the Church of England has produced Carbon Fast 40 day challenge resources to support churches wanting to engage their congregations on climate change action.
  • Transition Town Totnes has developed a 'Transition Streets' approach to peer group support on behaviour change.

Some community energy projects can be controversial and may require detailed discussions with local residents or stakeholders before it can proceed. Engagement with the local community is a vital part of any community energy project. Without strong support from people living in the local area it is difficult for any project to be successful. Community engagement is most effective when it starts early in the project and progresses via an on-going cumulative process. This allows relationships and trust to build as the project progresses and allows community members to genuinely participate.

  • Community Places has developed a community engagement toolkit which provides guidance on the issues you need to consider when planning and designing your community engagement process.
  • The Centre For Sustainable Energy (CSE) has written a short guide about different approaches and methods for consulting and engaging with your community. CSE also have models and demonstrator kits that community groups can borrow or hire for events.
  • BRE National Solar Centre has published a community engagement good practice guide for solar farms.