Blog written by Rhion Jones, Founder of the Public Consultation Institute and author of The Politics of Consultation
I recently joined an online session run by my local Council - Central Bedfordshire, and Community Energy South.
It was promoting Community energy projects. A short, 20 min presentation followed by discussions with the Council's Sustainability lead - there to provide encouragement.
Just for the record:
"Community energy is when people from all walks of life come together to increase renewable energy being generated locally, deliver community owned renewable energy, reduce energy use and help make it affordable for all."
This kind of public involvement matters if...
- Net Zero is remotely achievable, it requires the mobilisation of communities like never before.
- The agenda for change is so broad, and encompasses such a wide range of activities from electric vehicles to horticulture, that over-stretched Councils simply cannot prioritise everything.
Self-help or grassroots initiatives are therefore essential to make progress. In short - bottom-up rather than top-down stuff!
For the community-minded, and socially aware, this type of involvement has immense value, brings people together, fosters a sense of common purpose, and has demonstrable benefits feeding into a virtuous circle of public engagement.
Central Bedfordshire is one of ten pilot councils which have qualified for the first stage of the pathway funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to support the growth of the community energy sector.
The upside is that umbrella groups like Community Energy South (CES) have assembled teams of experienced people and a wealth of impressive case studies with which to attract local organisastions, small businesses or enterprising parish councils. The downside is that it all takes time as the benefits of such initiatives slowly emerge.
The aim here is to attract sufficient expressions of interest to create new Community Energy Groups all over the local area, and to support them with specialist advice and guidance.
None of this will succeed unless Councillors and officers provide leadership, so I'm hoping to see enough community consultation to establish the electorate's priorioties in this area and to build a consensus for public involvement in worthwhile endeavours of this kind.
You can see Rhion's speeches and presentations here.