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March 7, 2018

Take back control

Across the political spectrum, even where least expected, there are signs that the country’s confidence is finally cracking in the market’s ability to deliver best value and quality in public services. It is testament to how embedded this ideology has become that this has taken so long, given the number of failures we’ve seen in recent years. Meanwhile elsewhere in Europe, they’ve been quietly getting on with it. This inspiring story from Germany illustrates what’s possible if the will exists. Here in Scotland, our community energy sector, often unseen and unheard, is attempting something not dissimilar.


Local Energy Economies

CES wants to see a radical change to a more sustainable, accountable and socially beneficial way of generating, supplying and using energy.

Since 2013 we have led the development of the Local Energy Economies concept in Scotland. The idea is simple:

·         use renewable energy near to where it is sourced

·         retain its financial value in the local economy

·         minimise transmission losses or shipping costs

·         displace carbon-based transport and heating fuels as much as possible.

All the while, empowering communities through the enterprise and responsibility of taking ownership of their energy resources.

The keys to unlocking this potential are to balance local generation with local demand, and to create system flexibility for times when the two don’t match.

The changing UK energy system

Our energy system is changing. National energy policy is moving towards a situation where ‘smart’ technology will be used to balance generation and demand for energy in a more flexible way.

The roll-out of smart meters to all UK households is just one part of this change.

The move to smarter technology has two drivers:

The ‘transmission’ of electricity over large distances is costly and inefficient, and in some areas of the UK (especially in Scotland) significant grid equipment upgrades are needed if more electricity is to move across the country from generators to demand customers.

The development of renewables can decarbonise the energy system, and as renewable energy isn’t always available when we need to use it, new technology such as energy storage and smart communication systems is needed to make sure renewable generation can match locally connected energy demand.

Local Energy Economies centre stage

The movement from the current energy system to a flexible, locally managed one will require new models of energy ownership and arrangements for supply. Community organisations have the opportunity to be centre stage within this transition and CES wants to make sure that Local Energy Economies are at the heart of it.

There are plenty of policy, regulatory, technical and commercial challenges to overcome. We are systematically addressing these through novel partnerships with community groups and others, to develop projects that put Local Energy Economies into practice and share the learning with stakeholders.