It’s common knowledge that shopping locally is good for your local community. But what about sourcing your energy locally? Consuming energy via a renewable energy community doesn’t just help to transform your environment, it can transform your economy as well. Here’s how.
What is a renewable energy community?
A renewable energy community is a way to share surplus energy with your neighbours, and use theirs in return. You can produce, store and consume renewable energy all in one place – within your local community.
Money is kept within the local economy
Rather than sending monthly payments away to a large corporation, energy community members are able to keep their money within the local economy by opting to purchase energy from their neighbours. New jobs are created as the energy community is set up and designed, and these then follow on through into community management roles in the long term. Community owned assets such as solar panels and wind turbines can be used to generate a profit, which in turn can be reinvested back into the local community.
Depending on the community’s wishes, this profit can be spent in a number of different ways which are often selected via a democratic vote amongst community members. If a community is driven by environmental factors, it is typical that the fund be returned to the environment through the design of a new renewable energy project. If a community is more driven by economic factors, then it’s common for the money to be used to support the local economy. This could mean investing in local services, creating new jobs or providing additional education and training for young people.
This impact is strengthened by the financial benefits of energy communities to the individual community members. When a household joins an energy community they tend to experience a reduction in their energy bill, as they cut back on their energy consumption and consume cheaper local energy. This then frees up money for each household to spend elsewhere, such as within the local economy.
Energy community spotlight
In Wales, the Talybont hydro-electric scheme on the River Usk goes beyond just generating electricity by generating an annual income of £25,000 which flows through into a community fund to provide grants to key village projects.
Fuel poverty is dramatically reduced
Energy communities have the power to cut the energy bills for their vulnerable members, reducing the incidence of fuel poverty across the region.
With lower energy costs meaning better access to the energy they need, adequate heating in their homes during the tough winter months and a renewed sense of community spirit, energy communities can potentially transform the health of their vulnerable consumers. This has a knock-on effect for the rest of society, helping to cut the annual pressure faced by hospitals and other care providers, creating the space for better support in other areas of the community.
Communities band together to form stronger bonds
When individuals come together to work as one towards a shared goal, it’s natural that certain ties are formed. These ties continue to connect the individuals, who often go on to lend support to one another long after the project has been completed.
The same thing happens in energy communities.
Neighbours who were often strangers prior to the commencement of the project form intrinsic connections as they join the same community body, sharing the common belief that together they can make a difference for our planet and for their local area. These community members become used to working with one another, through shared decision making, shared energy production and shared beliefs. The energy community becomes the tie that unites individuals, businesses and local government into one common movement for positive change.
This movement can act as the catalyst for other community action. It shows members what is possible when they work together and forges the connections needed to get other projects off the ground. It reminds members of what their local community is capable of.
It’s the first step in a green journey
Renewable energy communities can inspire their members to look at ways to support the environment in other areas of their lives as they start to see the impact of their new lifestyle changes.
When energy community members save money each month on their energy bills, they’re left with a decision – how to spend it.
They could choose to spend it on luxury items and save up for a tropical vacation. Or, they could choose to spend the money on making their house even more energy efficient, such as through better insulation. Taking the latter option would not only create even more benefits for the environment, as less energy is wasted, but it would also bring further economic benefits as less energy needs to be purchased and so the community member has more disposable income. So the cycle continues.
If renewable energy becomes a socially accepted standard just imagine what we could do next to help our planet.
Looking for an energy community near you?
Join a WeSmart energy community and start making greener choices today: