UK utility Northern Powergrid has unveiled its Community Energy Engagement Strategy, a detailed roadmap of how the energy firm plans to partner with communities to accelerate the decarbonisation of its energy systems and consumers.
The strategy comprises 26 measures that the utility will implement to ensure stakeholders amplify their voice and to increase opportunities to engage with the DNO.
The Community Energy Engagement Strategy has five distinct sections, aimed at maximising engagement with community energy organisations:
- Listen – The DNO will listen to communities through ongoing engagement, including interviews for independent research and further work to engage new community energy organisations.
- Inform – Keep communities up to date and informed about its activities, with the aim that these will become more collaborative over time.
- Engage – Engage early, recognising that good engagement takes time, and ensuring that it facilitates a strong network of community and local energy organisations in the region.
- Empower – Empower and build the capacity of community energy organisations to participate in and contribute to the changing energy system.
- Advocate – Recognise that communities don’t have the capacity and time to lobby, so amplify their voice.
Northern Powergrid intends to test, refine and perfect these ideas over the next three years as it prepares its business plan for 2023-2028, known as the RIIO-ED2 price control period.
The aim is to foster the growth of community energy, deliver local, social, environment and economic benefits, and alleviate energy poverty in the utility’s service territories.
The launch of the strategy follows community energy projects generating 168MW of energy in 2018, enough energy to power 64,000 homes. 21 of the organisations who contributed to the generation of the 168MW operate in Northern Powergrid’s service territories.
Anda Baumerte, Sustainability Manager and Community Energy Contact at Northern Powergrid, said: “Our role is about more than keeping the lights on – we are a key enabler for regional decarbonisation. It is integral that we work collectively with the communities we support in order to address the climate emergency. This strategy demonstrates our commitment to go above and beyond to deliver on our common goals.”
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Northern Powergrid is currently providing financial and practical support for initiatives to assess the value of projects for the network and its customers.
The utility was the first UK DNO to set up a fund for community energy projects back in 2015. The financed projects have reached more than 5,000 people with grants ranging from £1,000 ($1,200) to £10,000 ($12,000) per community project.
Emma Bridge, CEO of Community Energy England, said: “The path to net zero requires us to collaborate to ensure the transition is fair and leaves no community behind. By publishing this strategy, it’s clear that Northern Powergrid is taking its role as an enabler of community energy seriously. The company is demonstrating its commitment to delivering meaningful environmental, social, and local economic benefits across Yorkshire and the North East and we look to working with them to make that happen.”
“We are determined to build a system that uses every unit of low-carbon energy in the best way possible by enabling communities to provide power back to the grid, or take it from locally generated, sustainable sources,” commented Patrick Erwin, Northern Powergrid’s Policy and Markets Director. “This strategy is about how we work in partnership to do this, recognising our role of connecting people to locally generated renewables which have socio-economic impact well beyond just a reduction in emissions.”