Communities have many roles to play in addressing climate change. Renewable energy schemes can be hosted and developed by local people, not just large energy companies. Our demand for energy is not only shaped by us as individuals, but also by the places where we live.
This raises questions such as: how can the community energy sector play a role in climate mitigation and bring benefits to local communities; and how can future energy systems reduce poverty and inequality in higher and lower income nations?
Tyndall Manchester is seeking to understand the social, economic and political factors that influence energy systems at a community level.
Our researchers are working with the community energy sector to develop new innovative business models to enable community energy to flourish. We are using energy justice as a lens to understand how new energy technologies in the home impact on energy vulnerability. Our work investigates how people cope with power cuts, and adapt to disruption in electricity supplies.
In the UK, community energy means citizen or third sector (non-profit or voluntary) groups working on an aspect of the energy system. While there is considerable diversity within the community energy sector, the majority of groups work either on generating renewable energy, on promoting and enabling energy saving and demand management, or on both.
Community energy projects may be seen as vehicles for raising popular awareness of energy issues; and as directly contributing to the democratisation of energy systems, and the reduction of UK greenhouse gas emissions. However, recent and multiple shifts in public policy, technology development, and the energy industry have combined to make the next steps for UK community energy unclear.
Tyndall Manchester is investigating UK community energy projects to develop innovative policies, finance mechanisms and business models to support community energy’s future growth. We are working closely with stakeholder organisations across the UK from the outset, for advice on the research, and to co-develop the recommendations from the analysis. This is funded as part of the UKERC research programme.
Energy justice theory is a useful method to understand possible hidden outcomes of changes within the energy system.
The current development of the energy system (including network redesign, generation types and end use technologies) to support the transition to a low carbon energy system provides an opportunity to understand emerging injustices and their causes.
Tyndall Manchester is investigating the possible outcomes of developments of the transition to a low carbon economy from the perspective of energy justice, both in terms of the end users’ access to energy, and within the broader energy supply chain.
Currently we are focusing on the justice implications of demand-side response, used in conjunction with electric heating, on technology and governance. We also work on broader concerns with direct implications for energy justice, such as the management of the grid in the context of a changing climate and social responses to the risk of power outages.
Our application of justice principles enables stakeholders to understand and then communicate how developments around energy networks, generation, and governance within energy transition impacts individuals’ access to energy services and their ability to live life in a fulfilled way.