Renewable Community Energy in the South Downs National Park

Permaculture Magazine
Wednesday, 2nd September 2020

New project launched to support and progress community energy in the South Downs National Park. Survey now open to guide the project.

The South Downs National Park Authority have teamed up with Community Energy South to provide support for community energy development.

Both parties are looking to help groups and projects in the National Park, who are looking to create community energy as an action towards combatting climate change.

Currently there are 32 existing groups in the National Park already involved in community energy. These kinds of projects provide an important contribution to reducing carbon emissions in local areas, helping to reduce footprints and mitigate climate change.

OVESCO is one current example. They have been supporting energy efficiency and heat projects over the last 10 years. Brighton Energy Co-operative has built more than £1.9m of community funded energy projects.

The project 

South Downs National Park Authority and Community Energy South are providing support to establish new community energy groups and projects in South Downs National Park. They want to help new groups get up and running so that the county’s carbon emissions can be reduced and communities can benefit from locally owned renewable energy. 

They are: 

• Engaging with groups and individuals to establish the level of interest in community led energy projects and to find out what plans, ideas and skills are already in place. 

• Developing guidance and training to provide support for new groups and projects. 

• Identifying groups that could benefit from ‘first-steps’ business development support from Community Energy South. 

• Identifying groups that could benefit from in-depth support to become incorporated, produce a business plan and submit a funding bid for a medium to large scale project. 

• Extending the outreach of Community Energy South so that interested groups and individuals in South Downs National Park are invited to community energy training and networking events. 

How can you be part of it?

The collaborative project want to hear from local groups and individuals throughout the South Downs National Park to better understand the community projects already in place. They also want to hear from anyone with ideas for new projects, so they can offer support going forward.

If you are interested in taking part, please complete their short survey. The information will enable local networks to connect and help to provide effective support for community led renewable energy projects to get started and to reduce the county’s carbon emissions. The survey can be found here:

A community energy masterclass in Autumn 2020, that aims to support local communities to set up new community energy groups and projects, is also in the pipeline. All are are welcome to attened, free of charge. 

What is Community Energy?

Community energy is all about drawing on local skills and people power to create ground level, community-based solutions to the climate crisis. It’s about people wanting to act now to secure a low carbon future, local green jobs and ethical investment. It’s about making our energy work for us and the environment in our communities.

Community energy organisations look to initiate renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that benefit their local community. Many groups manage local investment in their projects and secure grant funding to start projects.

There are 275 community energy organisations throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They are typically Co-operatives or Community Benefit Societies. Together they employ 205 full time equivalent (FTE) staff with 46,000 members.

As of December 2018, community owned renewable energy projects in England, Wales and Northern Ireland generated 168 MW electricity, enough to power around 50,000 homes every year. The sector also owns 1.96 MW of heat generation capacity and has initiated low carbon transport projects in 29 communities.

Useful links

Watch: Community-owned renewable energy systems

Book: Energy Revolution