Shockingly few people know about community energy, poll reveals


Blog written by Marianne Brown, Communications Manager for Bristol Energy Cooperative

Only 1% of British adults feel they know a great deal about the concept of community energy, according to a poll commissioned by Bristol Energy Cooperative

As governments gather at COP28 to discuss urgent measures to mitigate the worst effects of climate breakdown, a new online poll has revealed that British adults have, in Bristol Energy Cooperative’s opinion, shockingly low awareness of a climate solution that’s potentially right on their doorstep: community energy. 

The new Ipsos poll commissioned by Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC) shows, when asked “How much, if anything, do you personally know about the concept of 'Community Energy'?” only 1% of respondents know a great deal about the concept of community energy. 13% of respondents stated they know something about this concept (know a great deal (1%), a fair amount (2%) or just a little (10%)), with 26% overall saying they have heard of this (know a great deal/a fair amount/just a little (13%) or have heard of this, but know almost nothing about this (13%)). 

Once informed about community energy, almost half of those surveyed (47%) agreed (Strongly agree (12%) or Tend to agree (35%)) that community energy is a more sustainable way of generating electricity than electricity produced by large suppliers. Around half of respondents (49%) agreed (Strongly agree (11%) or Tend to agree (38%)) that community energy can be a source of income for local communities who use it.

In a year that has seen the climate crisis accelerate worldwide, BEC is urging the government to invest significantly more in community energy and promote it to the public as a trusted way to provide cheaper, reliable renewable energy to local people.

“Our poll is a wake-up call for the government,” said BEC’s co-founder and director Andy O’Brien. “People are being kept in the dark about the best energy solution to the climate emergency, one that empowers communities and greatly helps people struggling during a cost of living crisis. As we enter another difficult winter, it’s time for everyone to have the chance to join the community energy movement with its huge untapped potential.”

Emma Bridge, Chief Executive of Community Energy England said: “Community energy is the big green elephant in the corner of the energy room. From villages to cities, community organisations are helping homes become cosier, greener, and cheaper to run. But this is done on a shoe-string. Government really needs to step up its support for this vital community resource.”

Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC) is a community-owned enterprise that delivers ground-breaking community-owned renewable energy installations that benefit the entire community. BEC has a democratic structure with a one member one vote system so everyone has an equal voice in the coop. As a Community Benefit Society, BEC’s mission is to benefit the community rather than make a huge profit.

The coop was established in 2011, by volunteers from a number of community energy groups in the city, who wanted to get hands-on about tackling the climate emergency. Since then 1500 investors-members have joined BEC. It has raised £15 million and developed 17 clean energy generation projects around Bristol. These generate enough energy to power 3,500 homes. BEC provides 30% of the city’s solar power.

You can read more about the Ipsos data here.