Community Energy Initiatives


Research Project Summary
Recent policy statements have placed growing importance on the use of renewable energy in the UK. As part of this, there has been increased interest in the potential for community-based energy projects from the public, private and voluntary sectors alike. It is possible that through co-operative community partnerships, new technologies and developments will be more readily accepted. These should be more appropriate for the local context and more able to bring communities a range of economic and social as well as environmental benefits.

This research project evaluated the role of community initiatives in the implementation and embedding of sustainable energy technologies in the UK and sought to shed light on the benefits or challenges that arise in using the community route to achieve the uptake of sustainable technologies.
The project sought to explain this new theme of policy, evaluate project development on the ground and reflect critically on the distinctive qualities of a community approach to diffusing sustainable energy technologies. The research involved the construction of a database of community projects, programme level interviews and six project case studies.

The research found that there has been a multiplicity of drivers for supporting community renewables and that projects take many different forms, both in terms of technology ‘hardware’ and the ‘software’ of social arrangements through which the technology is utilised. Who the community is and exactly how ‘it’ should be involved and should benefit from a community energy project is open to interpretation and challenge. Case study evidence suggests that many of the claims made for community renewables can be observed in practice but that none are guaranteed. Policy interventions need to be more coordinated and inclusive and provide a more concerted commitment to the benefits of community-based processes. A fuller account of the research findings can be found in various downloadable documents from the publications page.

The project ran two years (2004-2006), funded by the ESRC Sustainable Technologies Programme. Professor Gordon Walker (Lancaster University Geography Department) led the project with Dr Patrick Devine Wright (Manchester Architecture Research Centre, Manchester University) and Professor Bob Evans (Sustainable Cities Research Institute, Northumbria University) collaborating. Researchers Dr Helen Fay and Dr Sue Hunter also worked on the project.

The project is now completed. Details of publications, conference papers, media coverage and the end of award report can be found on our on our publications page - as well as in project entry on the ESRC Society Today web site

To find out more about the project researchers please visit the Researchers and contact info page.

For more info on the project partners and the Sustainable Technologies Programme please visit our Links page.

Page updated 06-07

Lancaster University The University of Manchester, established in 1824. Northumbria University Sustainable Technologies Programme