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IPPR - Neighbourhood projects offer opportunity to green Britain's households

Communities working together are more likely to encourage reduced domestic energy use and increase the popularity of renewable energy technologies than individual green pioneers or even government campaigns.

The finding comes from IPPR’s independent assessment of the British Gas Green Streets community challenge, an initiative which saw 14 communities receive funding and expertise to install micro-generation and energy efficiency measures in households and community buildings.

IPPR’s report, ‘Green Streets: Strong Communities’, is based on an analysis of more than 400 houses and 30 community buildings, and interviews with around 1,300 individuals across the country. The results show that a “multiplier effect” was felt within communities involved in the Green Streets projects once low-carbon technologies such as solar panels were installed on visible buildings. Interest in energy saving and technologies increased when they were seen to be having a positive effect in the local area.

Of those householders who lived near to and had heard of a Green Streets project:

  • 61 per cent said they would be more likely to take action on energy efficiency and renewable energy in the future as a result of hearing about the project
  • 46 per cent have been inspired and have already taken action on energy efficiency and renewable energy as a result. Of these:

         – 50 per cent said they had been inspired to take action on insulation as a result

         – 23 per cent said they had been inspired to install a new boiler as a result

         –11 per cent said they had been inspired to install solar panels on their property as a result.

While some of the householders became involved out of a desire to make a difference to climate change, most said helping their local area was their main motivation. 

Andrew Pendleton, IPPR’s Associate Director for Climate Change, Transport and Energy said:

“Communities have until now been overlooked in the fight against climate change. IPPR's evaluation of the Green Streets challenge shows how a wide variety of different groups can take often simple energy-saving technologies and turn them into highly effective tools for engaging many hundreds of local people. This is the first time a study of this kind has shown clearly just how powerful the message can be if it's being carried right to people's doorsteps by neighbours they know and trust.”

However, IPPR's report also warns that communities face major hurdles when they set out to establish energy projects and argues that changes in government policy are needed to help ensure some of these do not prove insurmountable. 

  • Community groups themselves need time and a variety of different skills and have to become experts in energy generation and saving
  • Community groups need finance to get projects off the ground and to purchase technology and install energy efficiency measures. (Once purchased the financial benefits to the groups can be considerable – but these benefits cannot be realised if the groups lack up-front cash.)
  • The UK has the least energy efficient housing stock in Europe, with solid walled properties, such as Victorian terraced houses, posing a major problem. Solid wall insulation is costly and undesirable to many householders and yet without this measure installing renewable technology may not be cost effective
  • A lack of knowledge and incorrect perceptions by planners and local councillors can affect planning decisions and make it difficult to get micro-gen installed.

To overcome these barriers and help unleash the potential of community energy, IPPR recommends that:

  • Capital funds for community energy should be derived from private sources through a proposed ‘community energy fund'
  • Government, national and local, should make loan capital available at concessional rates
  • Government should provide ex ante impartial technical advice on micro-gen to communities to ensure cost-effective and satisfactory deployment
  • Government should launch a solid wall insulation competition to challenge academic and private sector innovators to come up with 'breakthrough' technological solutions
  • Government should fund an educational outreach programme on renewables for planning officers and local councillors.

Notes to editors

  1. Download ‘Green Streets: Strong Communities’
  2. Llangattock, a village in the Brecon Beacons, has been named the winner of the British Gas Green Streets Challenge. It beat 13 other communities in the final stage of the competition and has won £100,000 to spend on additional greening measures. For more details on the Green Streets Challenge go to http://www.greenstreets.co.uk/

Contact

Tim Finch, Director of Communications: t.finch@ippr.org / 0207 470 6110 / 07595 920 899 

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