Evaluating the impacts of community renewable energy initiatives

The UK is encouraging the adoption of distributed renewable energy technologies (RETs) in order to achieve carbon reduction targets and deliver on other energy policy objectives such as energy security. Latterly, through the adoption of a Feed-in Tariff (FiT) mechanism, RETs are now diffusing rapidly into local communities. There is therefore an urgent need to understand the rate and patterns of adoption of these technologies, and evaluate their impacts in specific community contexts. A model for this diffusion of FiT-supported RETs into communities is presented together with a framework for measuring the potential impacts of community energy initiatives over a broad range of recent energy policy indicators. The national register of FiT installations has been analysed alongside small-area socio-economic data such as indices of deprivation in order to explore variations in technology diffusion based upon type of RET, community affluence, built environment density, and geographical location. Particular pathways for the diffusion of RETs in UK communities have been discerned and localities identified and a concurrence with emerging literature on community innovations is discussed. It is shown that photovoltaic technologies (PV) are penetrating more affluent communities in a highly dispersed and isolated nature, but some more specific community activity is also evident targeted at more deprived communities.