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Leading UK in support for community energy

Above: Faithful Chanda, our first community energy engineer. 

We are to be the first Distribution Network Operator in the UK to recruit community energy engineers to support grassroots low carbon electricity generation.

Interest in decarbonisation, renewable power, energy efficiency and helping people in fuel poverty is growing at a local level resulting in the rise of Community Energy Groups.

These groups typically develop locally-managed solar, wind or hydro electricity generating schemes that maximise social benefit and cut consumer bills.

Providing more expert support for them is among commitments in our £6.7 billion business plan for 2023-28, which has a major focus on helping customers achieve net zero carbon emissions, for example by connecting electric vehicles and heat pumps.

We are planning to employ four new community energy engineers to provide extensive assistance for around 100 existing community energy groups in its area, as well as enabling 150 new ones to get started by 2028.

Faithful Chanda, who is our first community energy engineer, said: “The idea behind this new role is to provide holistic support for communities, to help them navigate the complexities of the sector and ultimately turn their net zero ambitions into reality.

“We want to encourage more groups to connect their solar, wind or hydro projects onto the network and my job is to help them understand they are not alone in that process.”

Faithful and his colleagues will marry their technical understanding with local knowledge to help community energy groups get connected to our network.

To do this they will hold personalised one-to-one sessions, signpost to sources of finance and make introductions to additional contacts.

Plus, they’ll supply training, how-to guides, hold webinars, share case studies and stage events to raise awareness of low carbon technologies and renewable connections.

Under our business plan for 2023-28, we are committed to connecting 30 new community energy groups a year to our network – a 150% increase. We also plan to hold 60 community energy surgeries a year.

“The role of community energy engineers is important if the UK is to decarbonise by 2035,” said Faithful. “Communities and companies like WPD will have to work closely to ensure low carbon technologies are adopted to bring about the scale of change needed.”

A new Community Energy England report shows there are 271 community organisations involved in electricity generation in the UK, which between them are generating 506GWh of electricity, enough to power 174,000 homes. In 2021, 23 new electricity generation assets were installed across the UK, representing 7.6MW of new community energy capacity.

More than 20% of the UK’s community energy groups are in our four licence areas and between them contribute 100MW of renewable power.

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