The British Academy report Cultures of Community Energy

The British Academy report Cultures of Community Energy looks at the cultural factors that shape the success of community energy projects, and the cultural enablers and barriers to community energy becoming mainstream.

This short brief highlights the findings and recommendations for action relevant to communities interested in setting up energy projects, and the bodies that represent those groups. There is also an accompanying brief for local and national policymakers.

The aim of the project was to identify opportunities that promote, and barriers that inhibit, community energy projects in the UK.

Our interest is in community energy generation and supply projects, characterised by local ownership, participation and benefit sharing.

Barriers to widespread take-up of shared energy generation in the UK may be economic, regulatory, technical, constitutional – or they may be cultural.

The British Academy commissioned a team of researchers at the University of Lancaster to collate a set of international case studies of community energy projects, in order to identify what those cultural factors might be.

The case studies prepared by the research team were selected from three broad groups:

  • Community energy leaders: projects from Denmark and Germany, countries with high uptake of community energy, and supportive regulatory frameworks.
  • The UK: four case studies from the UK – from England, Scotland and Wales.
  • Wild cards (international experience): case studies from Belgium, South Korea, Brazil and Chile, to explore very different cultural and institutional settings.

Three aspects of culture are considered:

  • National institutional and political cultures: including the assumptions governing regulatory structures.
  • Cultures of social enterprise: the extent to which social enterprises (businesses trading for social or environmental purposes) are recognised and valued within the economy and society of a region.
  • Local cultures: the cultural context within which community energy groups operate including the degree of trust and social cohesion.

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