The Energy Networks Association (ENA) hosted its first Community Energy Forum of the year last week with the theme of ‘Getting our networks to Net Zero’.
Set up to provide an opportunity for community groups voices to be heard by the networks, participants took part in two roundtable discussions and talked about a range of topics including investment in heat pumps, electric vehicles and EV infrastructure.
Introduced last year, this was the first of several forums that will be held in 2021.
According to the ENA, holding forums to hear community energy perspectives will allow the organisation to engage and collaborate in a more meaningful way.
Hosted by community energy and engagement specialists Regen, along with the support and input of Community Energy England, 40 community energy representatives joined via Zoom from all over the UK to provide direct feedback on ENA’s work.
Following introductions, the session heard project updates from Open Networks and Gas Goes Green with the opportunity to comment and ask questions to the ENA team. Two productive roundtable discussions were then held: Communities in our future energy system and Digitalisation of the Connections Process. For the former the groups offered insights into what more the Open Networks and Gas Goes Green projects could be exploring to get networks to net zero, and for the latter it was debated how the Digitalisation of the Connections Process can better suit community organisations and whether it will make it more likely for them to invest in heat pumps, electric vehicles (EVs) and EV infrastructure.
Farina Farrier, Head of Open Networks at Energy Networks Association, commented: “The future of energy is as local as it is national and getting community energy further integrated into the project will help Britain transition to a smart grid that works for all.
“The forums offer an opportunity for community groups to bring thoughts, views and barriers straight to the networks at an important time as they build the nations smart grid. They allow for the Open Networks project to speak directly with the groups impacted, ensuring their issues are heard and solutions are found.
“I’d also like to thank Community Energy England for their continued support and look forward to taking part in this year’s Community Energy Fortnight as part of our ongoing engagement with community groups.”
Jodie Giles, Senior Project Manager, Regen, added: “We are delighted to be working with ENA on these community energy forums again this year. It’s great to see ENA engaging long term with community organisations who have so much to contribute to the net zero transition. “This is a critical forum for distribution network operators to receive grassroots feedback, and for communities to be able to build their knowledge and capacity. Community energy organisations act as trusted intermediaries in our energy system, ensuring people are engaged in the transition and that no one is left behind.”