Local energy systems experts shape future strategy

30 September 2016

Local energy systems in the UK: Taking stock and looking forward 

22 September 2016

Hosted at ECCI, Local energy systems in the UK: Taking stock and looking forward brought researchers, policymakers, community energy practitioners, and other private, public and third sector stakeholders together to meet and exchange knowledge on the transition towards local energy systems.

Following an introduction from ECCI Director, Andy Kerr, the day kicked off with a series of three presentations on different examples of local energy systems in practice from around the UK.

Simon Roberts gave an insight into the process that the Centre for Sustainable Energy is leading to transform Bristol into a Smart Energy City, and the lessons learned along the way; Dave Hawkey outlined the opportunities and challenges for creating effective heat networks in the UK based on the work of the Heat and the City project; and Alex Schlicke told the story of the work that Scene has been undertaking on the island of Iona to create a local energy system that works for people within significant environmental, technological, economic and social constraints. 

After the coffee break, the second session examined the evidence that local energy systems are delivering positive economic and social outcomes.  Grant Allan, CXC postdoctoral fellow at the University of Strathclyde, presented preliminary findings from his examination of the economic impacts of Local Energy Challenge Fundprojects, which highlighted the complexity of mapping the flow of money through local economies, and Bregje van Veelen, PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, discussed the ways in which community-based energy projects may (or may not) support greater ‘energy democracy’. 

The final set of presentations focused on the enabling conditions for local energy systems in the UK.  Chris Morris provided insights on the policy and funding context, based on the work of Local Energy Scotland, noting the need for courage amongst all stakeholders; Beth Robertson presented the vision of the ‘Thousand Flowers Pathway’ developed by the Realising Transition Pathways project, which highlighted the importance of networks for making local energy systems work; and Dawn Muspratt detailed the innovative and inspiring work of Our Power, a community benefit society set up to address fuel poverty by disrupting the energy supply market. 

The day closed with a synthesis session in which Stuart Galloway (Electrial and Electronic Engineering, University of Strathclyde), Ragne Low (Programme Manager, ClimateXChange) and Mhairi Aitken (Sociology and Science and Technology Studies, University of Edinburgh) each gave their own reflections on the day. 

A report detailing the key outcomes from the event is in preparation, and ClimateXChange will host an online repository for current research, knowledge, and practice on local energy systems, including the report and full presentations delivered at the event.