How data helps communities contribute to net-zero


With net zero plans being formalised across the country, it has become apparent that data is the most crucial tool for achieving targets. Our State of the Sector Survey and report is how the community energy sector can demonstrate what it can and could contribute towards net-zero. Our previous report found...

  • A total of 275 community energy groups across England, Northern Ireland and Wales, consisting of around 46,000 members and 205 full-time equivalent employees.
  • Communities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland owned 168 MW in electrical generation capacity.
  • In 2018, these community projects generated 191.4 GWh - equivalent to the electricity demand of 64,000 UK homes.
  • Across 30 heat generation projects, communities own 2 MW in capacity, generating 3.9 GWh.
  • Energy efficiency projects were managed by 92 community organisations, engaging 128,000 local people and providing 17,600 visits, assessments and improvements to local homes, schools and businesses.
  • Communities conducted 825 separate low carbon events - including energy training and advice workshops to 4,600 attendees.
  • The uptake of low-carbon transport alternatives and energy storage projects increased, with 29 communities
    investigating low carbon transport and 496 kWh of battery storage installed across England and Wales.
  • Community energy generation reduced carbon emissions by 56,000 tCO2e through renewable electricity and by 711 tCO2e through renewable heat generation in 2018.
  • £978,000 in community benefit funding was spent on local development projects, alongside wider economic benefits, such as reduced electricity prices through energy efficiency upgrades in buildings, and through low carbon education and awareness programmes.
  • 69 community energy projects had stalled. This was largely made up of electricity generation projects, which stalled due to reduced Feed-in
    Tariff support.
  • Practitioners reported a largely negative outlook on the future of community energy. Concerns related most often to the consequences of Feed-in Tariff removal and a lack of support and leadership from government.
  • 72% of community energy organisations were planning low carbon projects in 2019, including an increase in non-generation projects such as energy efficiency and transport, as well as innovative projects such as flexible energy services, local energy supply and peer-to-peer energy trading.

These statistics and invaluable insights create a baseline upon which we and other organisations focus our work for the year ahead. 

We understand the constant intrigue that community energy receives from researchers (you are an intriguing bunch!) and the time burden this can create for volunteer-led organisations so we try to act as a conduit for research projects so there is less pressure on community groups to participate in numerous research projects throughout the year. 

A recent report by Scottish Power Energy Networks and WPI Economics utilised key parts of our data set to demonstrate that by 2030 community energy could:

  • have 5.3GW generation capacity
  • power 2,200,00 homes
  • create over 8,000 jobs
  • inject up to £1.8 billion into UK economy
  • save 2.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions  

Our survey data was also utilised in a high profile research project in Energy Nature written by top academics from Tyndall Centre, Imperial College London and Strathclyde University assessing business models and the future funding scenarios for community energy. 

Our policy and advocacy work benefits greatly from working with academics and important stakeholders such as DNOs. These projects and headlines give validity to our voice when negotiating and liaising with the government. 

Due to this necessity for data we, along with Community Energy Wales, have decided to extend the deadline for responses to our current State of the Sector Survey to 5pm on Monday 2 March. We hope you can see the merits of taking an hour to help us with this vital research. 

Take part in the survey here.

We thank you for your time and look forward to sharing the results with you and wider stakeholders later this year.