Community-based energy projects found to be facing several barriers, including ‘technocratic’ language

SEVERAL barriers have been found to hinder the creation of community-based energy projects, extending to what is often perceived to be the technocratic language of ‘climate change’.

According to research commissioned by the Scots regeneration agency, SURF, and carried out by a MSc student at the University of Edinburgh, the barriers appear to be most acute in both ‘deprived’ urban districts and also in rural areas.

Says SURF, here, of the work carried out by student, Kiera Dignam: “Access to funding is an unsurprising barrier, but, importantly, Kiera identified the inequality of access as organisations working exclusively with deprived communities had the least disposable funds to invest in community-owned energy independently and had thus been the least successful in obtaining funding.

“A number of participants reported carbon literacy requirements and training required by some funders also put community-based organisations at a disadvantage.”

SURF adds: “Organisations also reported that while interest in community energy may be high, their capacity to deliver is restricted both by ‘space and time’. Many urban respondents didn’t have access to space to install energy systems, or the time to meet regulatory requirements of installation and were therefore more inclined towards simpler environmental projects. Organisations also now find themselves in the position of having to address the more immediate crisis facing the communities they work within.

“Respondents reported increasing challenges in engaging communities with volunteer numbers dropping. This is possibly attributed to post-pandemic fatigue and the increasing responsibilities people are having to handle in their own lives in tandem with the cost-of-living crisis. Interestingly, hypocrisy seen in leadership was attributed as a cause for apathy: community members may need to see renewable energy infrastructure on public buildings.

“The elitist language, acronyms and technocratic terminology surrounding energy and climate change exclude many members of the general public from the conversation. Communicating the benefits of community energy as community regeneration and income generation may be better received than as climate action.”

An executive summary of the research can be found, here.

Picture credit: Place Design Scotland