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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/H051139/1
Title: Community Innovation in Sustainable Energy
Principal Investigator: Smith, Professor AP
Other Investigators:
Watson, Professor J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr LM Stapleton
Project Partners:
EDF Energy
Department: Sch of Business Management & Economics
Organisation: University of Sussex
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2010 Ends: 31 March 2014 Value (£): 514,617
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Building Ops & Management Construction Ops & Management
Energy Efficiency
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Construction Energy
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
18 Mar 2010 People Energy and Buildings Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Community-led sustainable energy projects are flourishing in the UK. Community projects involve local groups developing low carbon energy solutions appropriate to local situations, and with community groups having ownership over outcomes. Examples include solar water heating clubs, or insulation clubs, which provide mutual support for system installation; energy awareness and behaviour networks, which provide guidance and reassurance to neighbours on energy matters relevant to them; and co-operatively-owned small-scale renewable energy systems, such as micro-hydro and wind. The Government's Low Carbon Community Challenge joins a portfolio of policies helping innovative community projects. It is argued these will nurture local support for wider processes of low carbon energy transition. Intermediary organizations, such as local and national energy agencies, span local groups through their technical advice, and helping new community projects access resources and networks. If renewed policy interest is to lead to effective institutional support, then evidence is needed about community diffusion processes, performance, and interaction with mainstream energy systems. Independent academic analysis struggles to keep pace with the extent of innovation or to document the diversity of community activity involved. Little is known about the conditions under which community-led innovations do or do not diffuse. The processes by which similar projects replicate in different communities remain unclear. Opportunities for scaling-up projects so that follow-on projects benefit wider sets of local community are similarly obscure. And the possibilities that community-led innovations may provide adaptable and appropriable sustainability solutions that can be translated into mainstream energy market settings has yet to be seriously considered. Our aim is to analyse community energy in order to understand its diffusion and explain its potential in wider energy transitions. We divide community energy into three broad fields - community renewable, community demand reduction, and community awareness-raising/behaviour-support. We wish to see whether diffusion over the last ten years in each field is leading to the development of standard community models that replicate more readily, can be scaled-up, or can be translated into mainstream business settings.We will meet this aim through an engaged research approach that will deliver on four specific objectives: 1. Analyse how diverse community-led projects diffuse through processes of replication, scaling-up, and translation; 2. Evaluate the performance of local community energy projects and assess their potential in wider low carbon transition processes (using UK Foresight scenarios); 3. Provide critical reflection and empirically-backed recommendations for national policy-makers and key energy companies on how to support community approaches to everyone's mutual benefit; 4. Develop and advance innovation theory appropriate to community-led sustainable energy. A web-based survey will be complemented with in-depth case studies. Interviews with community energy intermediaries, policy-makers and businesses will complement a content analysis of 'best practice' reports. Stakeholder workshops will develop four UK Foresight scenarios for community involvement in energy and the built environment in the future, and their contribution to different low carbon transition pathways. Final analysis and synthesis will lead to clear recommendations for policy. Our proposal contributes to the EPSRC-EdF call on the social and economic sciences of People, Energy and Buildings by: a) explaining how local communities intervene in energy systems; b) quantifying their role in the diffusion of energy efficient technologies and local renewable energy; and c) assessing how community energy projects could contribute to UK energy systems under a range of future scenarios.
Key Findings
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.sussex.ac.uk