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Community Renewable Energy. What is community renewable energy?. Based on localised energy literature from the 1970s Started in the Netherlands in the late 80s. In the UK mostly since the 2000s Many different definitions & practices Decentralised , cooperative, local, community

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what is community renewable energy
What is community renewable energy?
  • Based on localised energy literature from the 1970s
  • Started in the Netherlands in the late 80s. In the UK mostly since the 2000s
  • Many different definitions & practices
    • Decentralised, cooperative, local, community
  • Includes assumptions about process and outcome

(Walker and Devine-Wright, 2008)

why is it worth researching
Why is it worth researching?
  • 1. Developments on ‘the ground’
  • 2. Policy developments
  • 3. Academics – filling the ‘gap’
why the netherlands and scotland
Why the Netherlands and Scotland?
  • The Netherlands often considered a pioneer of ecological modernisation policies. Now lagging behind others:
    • Dutch 2020 Renewable Electricity target: 37 %
    • Scottish 2020 Renewable Energy Target: 100%
    • Energy cooperatives started in the 80s, then nothing, until +/-5 years ago.
  • Different policy approaches by central government
    • Allows for debate regarding social justice & negotiation of power in society
  • Different operational models
    • Cooperatives versus Development Trusts  potential differences in procedural and distributive justice.
two broad categories
Two broad categories
  • What: Cooperatives
  • Where: England, Wales, continental Europe
  • Who pays: members, bank loan
  • Who benefits: Individuals (members) and community benefits. Trade off between the two.
  • What: Development companies
  • Where: Scotland
  • Who pays: the government, bank loan
  • Who benefits: Community benefits
why are people setting up initiatives
Why are people setting up initiatives?

Independent, 28/10/13

Guardian, 27/10/13

why are people setting up initiatives1
Why are people setting up initiatives?
  • Environmental
    • Reduce carbon emissions
    • Wanting to become a carbon neutral community
    • Educating young people about the environment
  • Social
    • Something to bring people together, work to a common goal
    • Being in control of development
    • Enhance local distinctiveness
    • Develop new skills, confidence
  • Economic reasons
    • Create employment
    • Bring money into the local economy / fund other community projects
    • Reduce energy bills
the role of central government
The role of central government

You can call it liberalism. You can call it empowerment. You can call it freedom. You can call it responsibility. I call it the Big Society. The Big Society is about a huge culture change…where people…don’t always turn to officials…for answers to the problems they face…but instead feel both free and powerful enough to help themselves and their own communities.

(David Cameron 2010)

The classic welfare state is slowly but surely turning into a participative society. Anyone who is capable to do so, is asked to take responsibility for his or her own life and environment. When people shape their future, they do not just add value to their own lives, but also to society as a whole.

(Dutch King Willem-Alexander 2013)

the role of central government1
The role of central government
  • Scotland
    • Funding:
      • Grants & loans for community groups
      • FiTs
    • Advice: Community Energy Scotland, Local Energy Scotland, Highland & Island Enterprise
  • Netherlands
    • Signed a new Energy Agreement in September
    • Funding: discounted energy tariff for members of energy coops.
    • Advice: none.
suggested benefits
Suggested benefits


  • Involves smaller & less risky
  • Create local employment
  • Enhance local economies


  • Fosters behaviour change
  • Enhance community empowerment/resilience
  • Contributes to a participative democracy
  • Enhances social acceptability


  • Reduced carbon emissions
  • Can potentially contribute to greater energy awareness / reduced energy consumption


  • Fewer transmission losses
  • Enhances energy security
it s not as straightforward as it seems
It’s not as straightforward as it seems…

Only limited critical evaluation of community/local energy initiatives so far

  • What is ‘community’?
    • Who?
    • Where?
  • Who participates?
  • Who benefits?
  • How are decisions made? By whom?
  • How is policy made?
  • Does government policy restrict or support the development of local energy?
msc research
MSc research
  • 2 case studies in the Scottish Highlands
  • Both currently developing renewable energy initiatives
    • One was looking at hydro, after having previously considered wind energy
    • The other was looking at hydro & wind energy.
msc research framework
MSc research framework

Aim: to establish the role contextual concepts of ‘place’ and ‘community’ play in the development of community energy developments

msc research findings
MSc research findings
  • Community energy can be just as controversial as large scale developments
msc research findings1
MSc research findings
  • What is community?

“What we are trying to do…it is not about us [as individuals], it is about a sustainable future for the community.”


“There is no such thing as community here.”

  • The role of place

“I think we ought to have a few places where nobody goes. I think it [a renewable energy development] is sort of morally wrong”


“Wild land, ‘we go there for the weekend’. There is no wild land here”.

phd research
PhD research
  • Focus on social & distributional aspects of community energy
    • ‘Positive’ environmental justice
    • How to measure success?
    • Different types of projects, different benefits
    • Why do some projects get off the ground and others don’t?
    • Local ≠ Socially just
  • Role policy plays in this
    • Localism as a response to, or part of, neoliberalism
  • Taking inspiration from the broader literature on international development & participation.
  • Wrong to assume community or locally based projects are automatically better than large scale projects, but do they have the potential to be better?
    • Direct link developing organisation – local residents.
  • Ensuring that differences within and between communities are taken into account
  • Ensuring local projects do not just benefit the more capable members of society
  • This may not be a quick process to reduce carbon emissions but should ensure long-term, locally appropriate solutions that have socio-economic as well as environmental benefits