Engaging with community energy, Helen Seagrave, Community energy manager, Electricity North West


Talking to our customers and “stakeholder engagement” is key to our business.  It helps us to understand our customers and how we can help them.  

Following extensive engagement, we are proposing a £1m a year community energy fund for our next price control period from 2023-2028 (ED2), but how did we get there and why?  Here’s how we know it’s right for the region.  

Over the last year or so, to prepare our next business plan for the 2023-2028 period, we have been going through an intensive period of stakeholder engagement and customer surveying to understand our customers plans and ambitions for our region.

As a result of this engagement, we know that our stakeholders and customers think it is priority for Electricity North West to help the North West to achieve net zero by making sure the network supports customers and businesses to meet their ambitions.  

We have heard loud and clear that our stakeholders’ want to go further and faster than the national target and deliver net-zero even sooner.  We have also heard that community and local energy groups want to play a key part in this transition and have a lot to offer to make the transition fair and ensure it provides benefits for everyone.  

As part of this process we take part in the annual community energy sector survey in partnership with Community Energy England, Wales and Scotland.  Electricity North West supports the production of a regional state of the sector report because it helps us track the progress of community energy in our region and it also provides insights into the barriers and issues the sector is facing 

The survey results are also useful because they confirm the main barriers to community energy which this year, as in previous years, have been reported as a lack of funding and a challenging renewable energy generation business model.   This gives us further evidence to support our proposal for a new community energy fund for ED2 which had already received support from 87% of customers and stakeholders survey as part of our Acceptability Testing.  This testing is designed to test customers’ acceptance of the different proposals developed for our new business plan.  Our community energy proposal for the new £1m per year fund and to continue with the support we currently offer was well received and ranged 21st of the 41 proposals evaluated.

As the region’s network operator, we will play a key role in supporting our customers, including community and local energy groups to meet their net-zero transition. It’s our job to make sure our network is fit for the future, to meet the changing needs of our customers and to lead the way on our journey to net zero.  

As part of engagement activities to keep in touch with the community energy sector we host Community Connects workshops to provide useful information to support project development and to help groups to learn from each other to address the issues they are facing

In addition, there are lots of resources on our website to help generate new ideas for projects, find out what other groups are up to, view the materials from our previous workshops and links to previous webinars.   All of which has been designed to help to support community and local energy to develop in our region.    

If you are developing a project in our region or thinking about developing a project, please come and talk to us.  We would like to hear about your plans and discuss how we can help.  

To comment our business plan please see the consultation pages on our website.