UK consumers are demanding a leading role in the country’s energy infrastructure, according to a new report.

Research from distribution network operator Electricity North West reveals almost three quarters (70 per cent) of consumers believe they have a key role to play in the UK’s energy infrastructure, but 55 per cent stated they did not know how to get involved.

Conducted by Impact Utilities, the research was commissioned to explore the public’s understanding and interest in engaging with community and local energy. The survey of 1,413 UK consumers highlighted only two per cent of people are actively participating in a community energy group, despite 63 per cent admitting they would be interested, if they could save money.

Steve Cox, engineering and technical director at Electricity North West, said: “Our energy landscape is evolving at a rapid pace and our communities will play an increasingly critical role in this evolution.

“It’s positive to see that almost three quarters of the British public share the same belief in terms of the contribution they can make to our energy infrastructure, but there’s clearly lots of work still to be done to ensure they understand how they can participate.”

When asked what aspects of community energy involvement appeal to them, the top motivator was money saving (63 per cent), followed by increasing energy efficiency (45 per cent) and reducing their carbon footprint (41 per cent). The research also reveals that 59 per cent of people would like to learn more about community and local energy online.

According to Carbon Coop, a north west-based community benefit society that works to help householders and communities reduce energy use and carbon emissions, actively increasing community engagement is key to overcoming consumers’ lack of understanding of the energy sector.

Jonathan Atkinson, chief executive of Carbon Coop, said: “While the changing energy sector presents significant opportunities for community and local energy groups to work with network operators, such as Electricity North West, a lack of understanding among consumers remains a large barrier as highlighted by this research.

“In those communities where local energy groups are already active, the benefits are tangible so we’re keen to continue our collaborative work to ensure more people can see the advantages community involvement can bring, not just locally, but nationally also.”

Alongside the research, Electricity North West has launched its community and local energy strategy, which sets out its vision for supporting the growth of community energy. This is a key strand of the organisation’s wider strategy for meeting the UK’s target of achieving an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 and building a smarter, more flexible power network.

“As an organisation, we are absolutely committed to the transition to a low carbon economy and as such, it’s vital that we play a central role in facilitating this transition both in the north west and across the UK,” explained Electricity North West’s community energy manager Helen Seagrave.

“With communities at the heart of all that we do, we also want to support activities that directly benefit them, while protecting vulnerable customers and promoting energy efficiency.

“Community and local energy groups will form a key part in this transition, and with close engagement, collaboration and innovation, together we can deliver a smart energy network and an infrastructure fit for modern Britain.”

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