As COVID-19 leads to more and more significant changes to the way we live and work, as well as affecting the health and wellbeing of those within and outside the community energy sector, we are working hard to support our members and the sector as a whole. Lives and livelihoods are being disrupted with many people involved in community energy working from home, balancing with with childcare and other caring responsibilities, and getting involved in community responses to the pandemic while also trying to ensure their community energy organisations are meeting legal and regulatory requirements, looking after staff and volunteers, and continuing the valuable work they do in communities. We have gathered resources covering these and other areas with the intention of helping members and others in the sector find the information, tools and ideas they need to perservere through this unprecedented situation.
As the membership body for community energy in England and the voice of the sector, we are paying close attention to how the sector is being affected by the current circumstances and working hard to gather evidence, make representations to the government and regulators and speak up about the sector's challenges, for example over installations halted due to the lockdown; our advocacy efforts were central in securing an extension for affected FiTs projects. We also have an eye on the future and will be thinking hard about how community energy can regroup and forge a new path once the extent of the crisis is known and the country begins to move out of the peak of the crisis.
If you have any sector-specific issues you need our support with, resources to share or would like to tell us about how your community energy organisation is responding to COVID-19, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also encourage our practitioner members to make use of our online practitioner-only discussion forum to connect with others in the sector; please request to join here.
- UK government has produced this guide to safe working during the COVID-19 outbreak, including outdoor work, offices and visiting homes. Any business that cannot work from home should:
- Read the guide linked above
- Complete a risk assessment with COVID-19 implications and mitigation measures
- Publish your risk assessment online (if you have more than 50 employees)
- Display a notice confirming that your organisation is following safe working environment guidance
- Co-operatives UK has produced HR and governance advice pages with guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority, including how to deal with AGMs - they have also explained here societies will be given greater flexibility in how and when they hold AGMs this year and have also that the FCA will not take any action before 31 October 2020 to follow-up on any delayed submission of annual returns and accounts
- Wrigleys Solicitors have put together a set of articles around risk mitigation, maintaining good governance, funding and more
Business & enterprise resources
- NCVO have various webinar recordings available on their website or YouTube, including 'Easing of lockdown – practical considerations for managing and supporting staff' and about supporting board leadership as voluntary organisations emerge from the immediate crisis of Covid-19
- Power to Change and Locality ran a webinar on managing your community business during the COVID-19 crisis
- The Impact Investing Institute ran a webinar at on COVID-19 emergency funding for small businesses, social enterprises & charities, with Cliff Prior, CEO of Big Society Capital and Nick Temple who leads Social Investment Business
- School for Social Entrepreneurs has gathered lots of advice on how small and social enterprises can prepare for COVID-19
- NCVO have also prepared lots of advice for organisations in the social sector
- Social Enterprise UK has collated COVID-19 help and support here
- Plunkett Foundation has a community business COVID-19 business continuity planning tool and has collected other resources for community businesses
- The Community Business Mutual Aid Group is run by and for community-led businesses. It is about solidarity, inspiration and practical peer support during COVID-19 and beyond
- CIPD has a range of free resources including template policies, letters and a checklist, to assist organisations with their response COVID-19
- The Information Commissioner's Office has a hub for data protection and coronavirus information for community groups
- Good Finance has a hub for social enterprises during COVID-19
- ACAS has a page of COVID-19 advice for employers and employees
- Volunteering will be crucial in the response to coronavirus - the government has issued guidance on what you can and cannot do at the moment (section 7 in particular)
- Some key government guidance pages:
Funding & support resources
- Aviva have reopened their Community Fund to include applications for projects that enable causes to adapt or continue their vital services by covering core running costs, so they can help their beneficiaries and communities during the current pandemic. Applications are open until 28th July. Details here
- Spark & Co has created a resource hub designed to help those from BAME backgrounds navigate the crisis
- The government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (for furloughed employees) is changing - you can find out more here and check what you can claim here
- On 26 May, the Government launched a scheme to allow small and medium-sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay. Employers can check their eligibility here and claim here through a new online service
- The National Lottery Community Fund is distributing £200m, including to small social enterprises supporting people and communities affected by COVID-19
- Co-operatives UK have a page explaining government support for businesses and you can watch their recorded webinar on support available for co-ops
- The Government has its own pages detailing their support for businesses and for the voluntary/community sector
- The Chancellor has announced a new scheme of 'bounceback loans' for SMEs, which are being targeted at the smallest businesses and as a means for all SMEs to access quick loans in the case of business difficulties
- We understand that community energy organisations receiving small business rates relief have successfully applied for the govenment's Small Business Grant Fund, or in some cases had the grant paid automatically by their local authority. The payments are administered by local authorities but you can find more information here
- haysmacintyre has a page on the range of financial, tax and accounting measures to support businesses
- Crowdfunder is offering 100% free fundraising for your business during the coronavirus crisis
- For more coronavirus emergency funding opportunities, please visit our funding page
Community energy responses
- Egni Sir Gâr Cyfyngedig is the community benefit energy society established by Carmarthenshire County Council - the Society installed 636 kWp (kilowatt peak) of rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on 16 Council owned buildings in 2016. Egni Sir Gâr Cyfyngedig’s recent AGM dedicated £42,300 of interest payments to local food banks, which have seen a marked increase in use during the COVID-19 pandemic. This donation to be distributed by the Council via vouchers which can be exchanged for food products from designated suppliers. The donation represents a value of approximately £70,000 for every megawatt of solar installed, which is the highest single payment per megawatt of installed solar for any community benefit society or commercial solar farm or portfolio in the UK.
- South East London Community Energy have launched free energy advice sessions with trained staff and volunteers on Zoom and over the phone, for people especially vulnerable during the COVID-19 lockdown - they have heard from numerous people who cannot access government schemes for employees or freelance workers, have lost their livelihoods and are facing a financial 'abyss' - their advice is needed more than ever. Details of their service have been added to emergency food boxes and meals, SELCE has connected with new COVID-19 community groups and other local helplines are making referrals to them. SELCE has also contributed £1000 to the pre-payment meter voucher fund and is helping distribute the vouchers, as well as giving advice about the warm home discount and WaterSure scheme
- Repowering are continuing to provide a home energy advice service via telephone and have set up a dedicated COVID-19 webpage, along with distributing a flyer highlighting Repowering services. They found that at beginning of lockdown a lot of people were not receiving information circulated by government or were confused by information received. Repowering are working to ensure there is a suspension of disconnections for clients on credit meters who are experiencing payments problems and are now working to set up a crises fund. They believe there should be an amnesty of credit debt that vulnerable people are building up. Repowering are also working up a service with other volunteer groups to provider support to clients who need help to physically top up a meter - this is a challenge as often some PPE is needed but difficult to obtain. Repowering are working with Lambeth Council and other organisations but it has been hard to coordinate numerous small, local advocacy/community groups - this has highlighted the need to create greater community resilience beyond the current crisis
- Six community-run solar farms in England and Wales have advanced a total of £195,000 in community benefit funds in order to support their local communities through the Covid-19 crisis. The solar farms have all received investment from and are supported by Community Owned Renewable Energy (CORE) Partners - CORE is a social investment partnership between Big Society Capital and charitable trust Power to Change. Its aim is to bring solar farms into community ownership and deliver lasting local community benefits
- Kent Community Energy is making available £46,000 from the Community Benefit Fund of Orchard 2 solar farm, near Sittingbourne, to support local initiatives to help tackle the coronavirus emergency. Initially, four local charities charities that Kent Community Energy has worked with before on energy-related issues will each benefit from grants of up to £5,000 to help them support local people facing problems exacerbated by the pandemic, ranging from getting food to mental health before on energy-related issues; their aim is that this support will help build long-term resilience in the community.
- Twemlows Solar Farm near Whitchurch is making available £20,000 from its Community Benefit Fund to help local initiatives offering support during the coronavirus emergency. They have teamed up with Shropshire Rural Communities Charity (RCC) to distribute the money, which will go to community groups and voluntary organisations across Shropshire
- South-west London community energy co-op CREW Energy has a blog reflecting on how it is adapting to the limitations of COVID-19, including the prospect of online-only share offer publicity, focusing on its long-term goal of promoting clean energy and a low-carbon London. CREW have also set up a phone Energy Cafe advice line to support those who need energy advice now more than ever, including COVID-19 support
- Communities For Renewables’ ‘collective’ of local energy enterprises rapidly mobilised £100,000 of crisis funding to support those facing hardship in their communities:
- Selsey and Sidlesham’s Ferry Farm Community Solar has allocated £40,000 to support organisations helping those in the local community facing hardship. Initial awards included £1,500 to the Academy Selsey for a subscription to an online library to enable students to access contemporary reading materials whilst stuck at home, £6,000 to Selsey Community Forum, who are co-ordinating the Covid Mutual Aid network for Sesley and Sidlesham, and £10,000 to Chichester Food Bank to support its operation in Selsey and Sidlesham.
- Gawcott and Buckingham’s Gawcott Solar CIC has allocated £14,000 to a Corona Crisis Fund, including £2,500 to Buckingham Food Bank to help provide emergency food to local families in crisis and £747 to YC2 Buckingham& Winslow Young Carers for gift vouchers to cheer up 55 young carers looking after family members at home.
- National Energy Foundation, who manage Gawcott Solar CIC’s Bee Warm energy advice service are focussing their efforts on helping local households in financial hardship deal with energy company issues including offering pre-pay meter vouchers.
- Burnham and Weston Energy CIC have allocated £40,000 to a Corona Crisis fund and are liaising with local community networks and Somerset Community Foundation, who manage their community fund, to understand where they can be most useful.
- Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy are allocating some of their community funds to support local Food Banks.
- Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-operative have collated information on energy supplier responses for prepayment meter customers
- Ynni Ogwen, a Hydro and Solar project based in Bethesda, has donated £1,000 to Bethesda Food Bank, and plans to continue this support every month until the crisis ends. Y Dref Werdd, an energy efficiency project in Blaenau Ffestiniog has been managing the day-to-day running of the food bank in conjunction with volunteers, giving guidance and advice to individuals who have had to claim universal credit. While in Caernarfon, Datblygiadau Egni Gwledig (DEG) will financially support their local food bank for the next few months. YnNi Teg, a wind farm project in Meidrim plan to donate £2,000 to The Carmarthen Food Bank to replenish its reserves. And Carmarthenshire Energy will also be making a contribution soon. Meanwhile Welcome to our Woods, a hydro and social prescribing project in the Rhondda, is sewing face masks for their local health centre, and taking boot-fulls of food to their local food bank.
- Point and Sandwick Trust, owners of the UK's largest community-owned wind farm, has announced immediate plans to use the funding it generates to support the coronavirus pandemic response on the Scottish Western Isles
- Carbon Co-op is launching a free, weekly webinar series covering all aspects of home energy
- Researchers at the UCL Energy Institute have developed a board game, called Watts The Deal, to show how peer-to-peer energy trading would take place within a community. In response to social distancing restrictions, they have rapidly advanced new versions of the game so community groups and others with an interest in low-carbon energy futures can get together virtually and play/discuss:
- Our Policy & Advocacy Manager, Duncan, has produced a home energy efficiency briefing which we encourage members to adopt, adapt and disseminate through their networks and mutual aid channels
- Plymouth Energy Community has collated this page, listing the additional support offered by energy suppliers during the pandemic
Energy industry updates
- Ofgem's COVID-19 page is where they will publish regulatory updates
- Citizens Advice have published a guidance document for energy suppliers and vulnerable customers that may be useful for community energy organisations engaging with such consumers in their communities
- The Energy Networks Association has a page for COVID-19 updates from energy network companies
- The UK government has agreed measures with the energy industry to support vulnerable people through COVID-19; community energy organisations are likely to be in the best position to publicise this and reach out through social media and other means to help vulnerable people access this support
Working from home & wellbeing resources
- Public Health Scotland have made a toolkit to help organisations plan their return to the workplace and communicate with staff (remember Scottish law/guidance may be different to English or Welsh)
- Alister Scott, Chair of Cuckmere Community Solar (a CEE member) and co-founder of the One Leadership Project, and his team have developed a 10 minute, 5 step approach for building resilience for teams during the current crisis
- Action Planning have a blog on establishing an environment in which colleagues feel secure enough to open up about their problems during lockdown
- Andy Brown, Head of Sustainability for Anglian Water Group, has written a blog about managing wellbeing, anxiety and mental health in the lockdown
- OWL Labs have made an extensive working from home readiness checklist
- The Climate Coalition shared advice for facilitating online meetings and training
- Mental Health Foundation have advice on looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak
- Oxfordshire Mind have advice on taking care of your mental health and wellbeing, especially coping with anxiety and dealing with self-isolation and home-working
- An experienced home worker has written about realistic expectations when working at home with children
- Hannah Massarella, founder of the charity Bird, has written about what we can do to fight fear
- Social Enterprise UK have shared a recording of a webinar on mental health and working from home
- Protecture have recorded a webinar on GDPR and dealing with personal data while working from home
Community & volunteering resources
- The Ubele Initiative have published a report examining the impact of Covid-19 on the BAME community and voluntary sector. Worryingly, findings suggest 9 out of 10 BAME micro and small organisations is set to close if the crisis continues beyond 3 months following the lockdown
- Fearless Futures have a really informative newsletter on inequalities, including inequalities specific to this pandemic, signposting to some great articles and resources. They also have an infographic outlining how systemic racism has caused COVID-19 to hit BAME communities harder
- NCVO have a page with resources, advice and webinar recordings about volunteering and coronavirus and a blog on how to ensure an inclusive response to the crisis
- CAG Oxfordshire have put together a shared document to support community groups with their response to the pandemic
- Community energy organisations wanting to engage with community support can find their local COVID-19 mutual aid groups here
- Alongside use of social media there are apps (e.g. https://nextdoor.co.uk/) that you can use to engage with your local community and encourage others to support vulnerable people in your local area