Oldham Community Energy: a case study in delivering net zero


The Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and Carbon Co-op today release a major new toolkit for councils, a community wealth building energy transition. The toolkit, which shows that councils have a vital role to play in delivering the government’s net zero strategy, uses Oldham Council’s work in developing Oldham Community Energy as a case study in how to deliver a socially just energy transition.
Oldham Council’s role in driving the establishment of Oldham Community Power and Saddleworth Community Hydro are used in the report as key examples of how councils can approach joint ownership of climate solutions with communities, ensuring that people benefit, not suffer, from the changes needed to address the climate emergency. The Council’s trailblazing approach to its climate change work, innovative approach to raising finance, and its use of publicly owned space were key to pushing forward an approach to the energy transition which builds community wealth.
The case study is part of a four part toolkit developed by CLES and Carbon Co-op. The toolkit acts as a “how to” for councils wanting to deliver greener and cost-effective energy for communities. Case studies from across the UK show the vital role that many councils and their partners are already playing in delivering energy transition projects, while tools and resources in the toolkit will help all local authorities, no matter their size or starting point, to develop solutions that work for their place.

The report shows how, by using a community wealth building approach, councils can develop new ideas for energy transition in their area, including better use of procurement, land and assets, employment and skills training.

Eleanor Radcliffe, Senior Researcher at CLES and lead author of the toolkit, said:
“While the COP26 global climate Summit in Glasgow next month will force a reckoning that international and national efforts to address the climate emergency are insufficient, the impact of rising domestic fuel prices on the most vulnerable is already proving to be a challenge felt most keenly in places like Oldham. Now is the time to recognise the vital role that councils can play in delivering a just energy transition. This toolkit provides a starting point for local authorities to take action and – by using community wealth building as a framework – to do so in a way that shapes their local economy so that it serves people as well as the planet.”

Laura Williams, co-author of the toolkit and mPower Project Manager at Carbon Co-op added:
“Our municipalities do not have to wait around, they can be trailblazers and set their own path towards energy transition. Many localities are already working to generate community wealth and tackle these inbuilt inequalities while pushing forward local energy transition. Other municipalities in the UK have the opportunity to learn from this to create their own just energy transitions using community wealth building principles.”


  • The report authors and representatives of the case study are available for interview.
  • Images can be provided on request.
  • The toolkit has been developed in partnership between CLES and Carbon Co-op, funded by Barrow Cadbury Trust and supported by thirteen councils from across the UK.
  • An embargoed copy of the toolkit can be found here: https://cles.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Front-page-FINAL.pdf.
  • An embargoed copy of the paper containing the case study can be found here: https://cles.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Part-4-FINAL.pdf
  • For further information, visit: https://cles.org.uk/publications/energy-toolkit/ [available from 0001 Friday 29 October 2021].
  • Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) is the national organisation for local economies - developing progressive economics for people, planet and place. We work by thinking and doing, to achieve social justice and effective public services. www.cles.org.uk
  • Carbon Co-op is an energy services and advocacy co-operative that helps people and communities to make the radical reductions in home carbon emissions necessary to avoid runaway climate change. www.carbon.coop
  • Barrow Cadbury Trust is an independent, charitable foundation, committed to bringing about socially just change. www.barrowcadbury.org.uk
  • The councils who contributed to the toolkit include Birmingham City Council, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, Gateshead Council, Lewes District Council, Manchester City Council, Oldham Council, Plymouth City Council, Portsmouth City Council, Rochdale Council, Salford City Council, North Ayrshire Council, Nottingham City Council and Wirral Council.
  • Community wealth building is a people-centered approach to local economic development, which redirects wealth back into the local economy and places the control and benefits that come with this into the hands of local people. Visit the Community Wealth Building Centre of Excellence for more information: https://cles.org.uk/the-community-wealth-building-centre-of-excellence/