There is no consensus on a precise definition of ‘community power’. It can relate to education and raising public awareness around energy efficiency and sustainability issues, it may emphasise self-sufficiency, local determination, and even production of energy by the community itself. ‘Community’ may also mean different things, ranging from one or two people living in close proximity to each other, to a large group of geographically dispersed individuals that share a common interest.
For the purposes of the Community Power Project (Co-Power Project), we understand community energy generally as projects where citizens own or participate in the production and/or use of sustainable energy. There are several characteristics that may be common to such community power schemes/projects:
- Membership by ordinary citizens or groups of citizens, where operation/ownership of the project is based on active involvement and/or participation;
- The project is largely intended to derive tangible collective local or social benefits;
- An organisational structure that demonstrates self-governance or participatory democracy by all members of the project;
- Decarbonisation, or the intent to move away from fossil fuels as a source of power is an over-arching goal;
- Project benefits are realised by the individuals or communities close to the project;
- and Profits are either re-invested into community power, or realised by the members of the project.
Community power can help place citizens and communities at the centre of the low carbon transition. It involves them directly in energy decisions, and provides them with more control over possibilities to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle. It also focuses on cooperation and development of common goals between citizens, leading to stronger communities overall.
Community power also contributes towards improving energy independence, energy savings, and ensuring secure and sustainable energy supply.