Challenge Fund launched to help growth of Community Energy sector

Devon is aiming to bolster its position as the UK’s leading area for the Community Energy sector with the launch of a new pilot funding scheme.

Devon County Council is making £200,000 available through its new Community Energy Challenge Fund, as part of its efforts to support economic recovery following the pandemic.

Not for profit organisations, public sector bodies and community groups across the county will be able to bid for one-off grants of between £1,000 and £25,000. The scheme will help enable the development of a handful of pilot Community Energy Projects, and assist more people in accessing local Community Energy initiatives and supply chains.

The Council states there are more than 500,000 homes in Devon needing to undergo a “green retrofit” to become more energy efficient by 2050 and meet the Zero Carbon targets set by central government, the scheme will also fund places on accredited training for community retrofit courses to gain qualifications as advisors, assessors and co-ordinators.

Devon is currently home to 22 community energy organisations – that’s more than any other county in the UK. They run more than 60 community owned renewable projects, which have generated over 17,400 MWh of clean green energy, saving 6,080 tonnes of CO2 emissions and helping more than 2,700 homes to save on energy bills and increase their energy efficiency. These organisations have also raised over £14 million of investment and created more than 30 full time equivalent jobs.

The Challenge Fund will aim to capitalise on the economic opportunities within the sector, in line with the aspirations of the Team Devon Covid 19 Business and Economic Recovery prospectus.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Recovery and Skills, said:

We’ve seen significant growth in the community energy sector in Devon over the last few years, and with targeted investment it could really start to fulfil its potential. This Challenge Fund aims to encourage extra investment as well as attracting new investors into the sector to generate additional training and employment opportunities. Hopefully this initiative will help people tap into the potential social and economic benefits that community energy has to offer – not only lowering consumers’ bills and reducing carbon emissions to meet net zero carbon targets, but also supporting Devon in achieving its aspiration to become a leader in the Green Economy while playing a vital role in the county’s economic recovery.

The Community Energy sector enables local communities to benefit from collective local action to reduce, purchase, manage and generate energy. This can be improving energy efficiency or increasing the amount of energy generated from low-carbon and renewable sources.

Application submission has closed for this funding. Successful projects must spend the funding by 31 March 2023.