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Community Energy Networks

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 14 May 2015 | comments*Discuss
 
Community Energy Networks

No matter how well any community has done with its energy project, there are always going to be times when a bit of support can be important. Community energy networks provide a mutual self-help forum for all the groups in the local area involved in energy related projects and as such, they can often represent a wide range of interests and an even wider set of experiences! If there’s already a community network on your doorstep, then it’s definitely a resource to be valued.

Getting Support

With so many individuals, societies and community groups becoming increasingly interested in energy saving and sustainability, networking offers an ideal way to get a good deal of the support they need. Just like social networking, community networks thrive on people talking to each other and sharing contacts, experiences and problems – and although a network may essentially be a talking-shop, it can equally also be the springboard for co-operation and mutual benefit. In many respects, the achievements of community networks are largely limited only by the willingness and imagination of their constituent members – so for a good and lively group, the opportunities to share experiences, support each other and cross-fertilise ideas are almost endless.

What Are The Benefits?

Whether your own project has been successful or not, there are times when we all need to be able to talk to someone who has been through the same experiences, which is where community networks come into their own. Although the particular focus of other community groups may be different, the sorts of triumphs and disasters that beset these kinds of projects are surprisingly similar. Particularly for fairly new project groups, having the opportunity to learn from other people’s experiences can be very helpful – on the one hand forewarning them of the likely pitfalls to avoid, while on the other gaining useful insight into what worked for them. Of course, even if the general aims are the same, different projects are seldom identical, but never-the-less there are always lessons to be learned, and as Otto von Bismark once famously observed, it is always a good idea to learn from other people’s mistakes!

Weight Of Numbers

Being part of a community energy network can also be helpful when it comes to things like resources, contacts and purchasing, particularly for smaller projects. For one thing, whatever you need, it’s highly likely that somebody else either knows where to get it – or needs it too, which makes the job of obtaining resources that much simpler and could even let you club together to negotiate a discount.

By the same token, a successful network will probably represent a huge potential list of contacts for all sorts of help, advice and services spread amongst its constituent groups, and best of all, everyone on this informal database has already been vetted and pre-approved.

Another advantage of community networks is that it can often be easier and more effective to make one approach to MPs, councils and other official bodies on behalf of a large group rather than make a series of individual representations for your own little project. Groups that speak for a larger number of people and projects seem to be given greater weight – which can be a major benefit when dealing with officialdom.

Joining a community energy network lets your project benefit from the cumulative experience and know-how of the whole group, which can often represent a tremendously useful database of triumphs and disasters. There may not, of course, be one close by to join, but given all the benefits that community networks can offer, if there currently are none in your area, you might even want to think about setting one up for yourself – after all, there’s nothing quite like a bit of mutual support!

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The idea of energy saving communities sounds great; have any rural communities taken on the challenge?
Helen - 14-May-15 @ 8:38 PM
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