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Title: Community energy generation in the UK : the link between community ownership and local support
Author: Chen, Feibei
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2019
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The UK government launched the first Community Energy Strategy on the 27th January 2014, which highlighted the importance of community energy development in meeting the 2050 climate change target. This study investigates the link between community ownership and local support of renewable energy in order to prescribe bespoke public communication strategies that lead to widely accepted recommendations for community energy policy frameworks and contribute toward the aforementioned energy security and climate change targets. Studies from the literature showed that public support of renewable energy projects was high. However, this trend was reversed and acceptance was low when the proximity of the projects was local to the publics' households. Meanwhile, further studies revealed that offering community ownership, community involvement and community benefits to local residents could have a positive influence on social acceptance of the project; this link between ownership, involvement and benefits with social acceptance were investigated in this research. A mixed-methodology approach, which included survey questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders and members of the local community, was employed at three different solar photovoltaic (PV) energy projects located at Wedmore, Berwick and Woolbridge in the UK, where comparisons were made between three different ownership models: 1) 100% community ownership, 2) shared ownership and benefits, and 3) private ownership with community benefits, respectively. The three aforementioned factors were specially investigated: community ownership, community involvement and community benefits, which revealed that all three had a positive influence on the support from local residents. In terms of community ownership, the three main criteria that impacted their level of support included: 1) producing energy locally i.e. local electricity production, 2) benefiting the community and 3) having community ownership. Four main types of involvement were identified that positively affected support: 1) investing in shares, 2) helping the board of directors, 3) attending council meetings to express opinions about the project and 4) attending community meetings to receive information on the project in addition to being regularly informed on the project status. Regarding community benefits, both direct and indirect benefits, which included financial community funds and reducing community carbon footprint respectively, were identified and linked to positively affecting the level of support by local residents. Meanwhile, for those residents who were initially against renewable energy developments, community ownership and benefits were more likely to make a positive impact on their opinion, particularly if reducing household energy bills was one of the benefits. By contrast, active community involvement had the least influence on residents who were against renewable energy developments, but regularly informing local residents showed a positive influence on local support. The most socially accepted model was 100% community ownership at Wedmore, followed by private ownership with community benefits at Woolbridge and finally the shared ownership project at Berwick. Notable differences in the social acceptance trends were attributed to the 100% community ownership and benefits at Wedmore, support for renewable energy development and the availability of a community benefit fund at Woolbridge, while failure to identify that it was a community project and disagreements for how any community benefit fund would be spent contributed to the reasoning why Berwick was the least favoured.
Supervisor: Mander, Sarah ; Abi Ghanem, Dana Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: community involvement ; social acceptance ; community energy ; community ownership ; community benefit