Power to the people through community engagement
The Converging World works with community groups – parish councils, Transition groups, schools and others – to help them understand their energy consumption, how they can reduce it and what the renewable energy potential of their neighborhood is. We help them to direct their efforts, set targets, measure impacts, remove barriers and extend their reach. Community-based change can be a slow process with little access to funds. Grass-roots activity of this type, however, plays an essential role in changing behaviour. This is TCW’s specialism and our long-term funding streams help to provide the consistent effort that is needed.
- We use TCW’s work in Tamil Nadu as a twinning link for schools and communities which builds understanding of the challenge of convergence. The programme is free of charge – we fund it through our renewable energy investments in India.
- We run a workshop and surgery programme to help community groups prepare Sustainable Energy Plans for their neighborhood. Trained mentors help the groups to analyse published energy consumption data and present it in an easily understood format. Home survey data detailing levels of insulation gives an idea of how much energy can be saved through efficiency measures, and local knowledge is combined with mentors’ technical know-how to identify potential renewable energy projects.
- Once communities understand their energy needs and their potential for renewable energy, they can set targets and start to take projects forward. This could be a community-owned wind turbine, or a plan to install loft insulation in 200 homes a year. TCW’s support continues through this phase and we help to find and secure funding for these projects.
- Complementing all this work is our online tool, the Community Hub. This is where groups can input their energy data and measure progress towards their targets. The Community Hub also showcases the community’s projects and provides vital support for overcoming barriers such as gaining planning permission or securing funding. Interactive tools for CO2 emissions mapping also provide more information and are a good educational tool. In addition, the Hub will facilitate syndicate purchasing of energy products and services, helping to save more money.
The Converging World launched its “Power to the People” programme in June 2010, aiming to help community groups understand their area’s energy consumption, how it can be reduced through better energy management and insulation and what is possible in terms of renewable energy. We took 12 communities through a six workshop programme to analyse the freely available energy data from their area and estimate the potential for energy projects. From this, the communities have written Sustainable Energy Plans, which display the information in a user-friendly format to the wider community and are the basis for developing renewable energy projects and reducing wasteful energy consumption as communities.
Artists Project Earth has supported us to develop the workshop programme, including the guidance, online tools and community hub and over the next year we will continue to support the communities in getting their energy projects in the ground that have been identified through this process. These projects range from solar panels on roofs and helping people improve insulation in house to large scale wind turbine.
We have received positive feedback from our workshop programme and we are confident that we will get some of the projects identified in the sustainable energy plans installed in the next year. Our priority is now to make the materials and online tools as accessible as possible to the wider community. Our aim is to facilitate accelerating the rate at which renewable energy is deployed in the UK and working with communities, building their confidence through improving their knowledge and energy literacy is certainly proving a successful formula in our experience.
We look forward to the next year when we will see these sustainable energy plans come off the page and into the community for all to see what is possible.