We are an umbrella organisation that helps local community energy groups and organisations to successfully grow low-carbon businesses across the South East. We started life in 2011, beginning by mentoring 12 community energy organisations across Sussex through a program funded by the Cabinet Office and match funded by West Sussex County Council.
Over time, as the original 12 organisations became established, we expanded, building partnerships with industry stakeholders such as UK Power Networks and supporting the community energy sector to develop their community businesses and deliver renewable energy business cases through funding such as RCEF (Rural Community Energy Fund) projects.
A couple of years ago, Essex County Council came to us – they had no community energy groups in the county – and asked for help to develop a step-by-step framework for growing successful community energy initiatives. We developed an approach based on best-practice community engagement and community energy peer mentoring which includes reviewing group interests and clustering groups together to form networks. This was the start of our Community Energy Pathways programme which has since been expanded to Hampshire and South Downs National Park and recently launched in Surrey (2021/22).
Each Pathways programme is aligned to the climate change and net-zero strategies of the relevant regional authority. The output of the overarching Pathways initiative is to ensure every region or district authority has a community energy not-for-profit business that represents it.
The communications and mentoring process is very similar across all of our Pathways programs and it’s a vital part of the initiative. The response from the people and groups we support is hugely positive – they are incredibly keen to learn, and we are committed to getting them to the stage where they can stand on their feet and ideally employ a paid officer.
As we target 2030 and step up our net-zero goals, the Community Energy Pathways organisations will become key stakeholders for delivering ambitious targets within local authorities. It’s important to remember that as well as building renewable energy, the community energy sector also provides independent energy advice, retrofit initiatives, electric vehicle charging, car sharing, and community heat projects.
We want everyone to be able to access a community energy group wherever they live and for communities to have the education and resources they need to ensure their communities are powered by renewables. Not only is it the right thing to do for the planet, but it also gives communities control and a vested interest in their own energy usage and can help to tackle fuel poverty.
We are stronger together.
Get advice – If you’re thinking about a community energy project, it’s really important to get advice from people who have been there before. So many people have done it, and so many people are willing to help. Reach out to Community Energy South to ensure you’re on the right track – get started by joining our webinars and building connections to other communities.