The social benefits of community energy

New research by The National Trust highlights that community owned renewables do deliver social benefits in addition to economic and environmental ones.

In the space of forty years the Welsh village of Abergwyngregyn saw its social fabric slowly ebb away. It lost the cornerstones of its local society – its shops, petrol station and pub. However, more recently, community action and fundraising has led to the renovation of an old mill in the village, which now houses a community café and snooker hall.

The village’s upturn is set to continue thanks to the development of a £1 million 270kW hydro. The scheme will generate enough energy to power the entire village and any surplus money created will be reinvested straight back into the community. There are substantial plans for college bursaries, a children’s play area, as well as a new village pub.

Clore Social Leadership Programme Fellow Mark Walton judged that the Abergwyngregyn project shows communities generating their own energy have stronger resilience, autonomy, empowerment, education, sense of place and local economy. 

We have played a crucial role in the Anafon Community Hydro Project – proving that organisations partnering with communities to help develop renewable energy projects are a winning formula.

We are now looking at restoring an old 1929 quarry hydro in conjunction with the town of Bethesda. It is clear that with the support of organisations these projects could really flourish – Keith Jones, National Trust Environmental Advisor, surmised that the “potential for community energy could be huge.”

The chairman of the Abergwyngregyn community group Hywel Thomas stated that “support from the community has been fantastic. When it first began there were only a few members, but 60 people came to a meeting last month and all were in favour of the hydro, it was overwhelming.”Abergwyngregyn Community Meeting

The village of Abergwyngregyn demonstrates how community energy projects can empower a community and stimulate local society and economy – it also highlights the significance of the involvement of organisations such as the National Trust.

The National Trust is supporting more community energy projects like this by backing the ‘Community Energy Fortnight’, August 24th – September 8th.

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