page title icon The Community-led Energy Planning Approach

Community-led Energy Planning (CLEP) is an intentional, action-focussed approach, which:

  • puts the lived experience of people with the most to gain from a just transition at the centre of discussions about how to make it a reality;
  • brings people together to shape and demand a transition which will deliver for their neighbourhood;
  • builds community knowledge and understanding of the energy transition so that people can engage with decision-making and shape and drive the agenda for their place, overcoming barriers including terminology and technical language;
  • builds collaboration between communities, local authorities and other local stakeholders to progress the energy transition;
  • identifies opportunities for community-led and -owned solutions;
  • generates recommendations for energy transition interventions directed towards local stakeholders. 

There are six key aspects to the CLEP approach.

1. Working at the neighbourhood scale

Working at this scale enables abstract conversations about climate change and the energy transition to be grounded in relatable issues for the community. It builds on the knowledge, relationships and social capital already held by the community and enables connections to be built between local people and other stakeholders to facilitate action following the CLEP process.

The team working on the Oldham Energy Futures project used the ward scale for data analysis (see prepare) and worked with the neighbourhood group to define the boundary of their neighbourhood. Oldham Council also had the Thriving Communities Index which outlined the neighbourhoods in the area, and the team used to develop the Neighbourhood Profile.

2. Working with a group optimised for action

Neighbourhood groups – local people taking part in the CLEP process – are made up of between 12 and 16 people. This number is based on the optimal number of people to participate in a workshop. Care should be taken to create a group which is as representative of the local area as possible and who can learn and grow individually and collectively through the process. The Neighbourhood profile can be used to gauge representation. This number is also of a sufficient size to bring members of the group together to drive action following the CLEP process. 

During Oldham Energy Futures, two groups of six people in each neighbourhood came together to deliver community action projects emerging from the process. Ideally, action should be amplified beyond the neighbourhood group, but a core group of six can be a useful place to start. 

3. Focussing on key energy themes

The CLEP workshops in the diagnose phase focus on four relatable, easy to understand elements of energy transition in an urban setting:

  • sustainable transport
  • energy efficiency in the home
  • renewable energy generation
  • community ownership and energy transition

These act as an introduction to key energy transition themes and are a foundation for knowledge to be built following the programme. 

Sholver residents reflect on public transport offer within their neighbourhood
Searching for existing solar in Oldham

4. Centring questions of ownership

The question of ownership is critical to the delivery of a just transition. The CLEP process seeks to build the knowledge and capacity of the neighbourhood group so that they understand the potential for, and importance of, alternative models of ownership in delivering a just energy transition. 

Community ownership, municipal ownership and other generative forms of ownership (such as social enterprise) are the most effective ways to ensure the investment in and financial benefits from energy transition interventions are driven back into the local economy, to the benefit of local people. This aligns with a community wealth building approach to local economic development which focuses on the growth of alternative models of ownership in the local economy and helps to retain wealth so that it circulates and benefits local people and places.

5. Valuing peoples’ time and the local economy

A financial incentive reflecting the time commitment to the process is essential. This commitment to a financial incentive can mean greater inclusion and a greater likelihood that people who would otherwise be unable to participate in the process (due to time off work, childcare etc.) can participate. This financial incentive also helps participants to recognise that their contributions and input will make a difference, and that their participation matters.

Oldham Energy Futures paid group members £50 per workshop, based on the Living Wage for five hours of their time. 

It is also important to lead by example and spend money where possible within the local economy to amplify the impact of the CLEP process on the local area. For example, sourcing venue hire, catering or printing within the neighbourhood.

6. Community-led Energy Planning ethos

The approach taken by facilitators of CLEP is as important as the preparation, workshop content and any additional activity delivered in the community. 

At its core this approach is resident-led. It places the experiences and priorities of local people at the forefront of its design, utilising that experience as an entry point for discussion about the energy transition within their neighbourhood. Residents (who are local experts) guide facilitators (who are visitors to the community) to the issues facing their neighbourhood. 

Rather than using data as the only source to propose a specific solution, the delivery team pose questions to the neighbourhood group which are informed by data analysed through the prepare phase and pre-existing experience of the neighbourhood among the delivery team. These questions are used to test the data and inform the development of solutions to the issues identified by the group. 

The local expertise of residents is complemented by bringing in other expertise (such as individuals with expert knowledge of the energy system, transport or community ownership) which can add value and build local knowledge and understanding. 

This approach can be used to enable the group participating to self-organise and find their voice. CLEP, in its best form, uses creative and participatory approaches to deliver information, provide resources and build confidence to activate the group. This means that they can then take forward energy transition solutions they own, going far beyond the usual approaches to engagement and consultation in relation to the energy transition.

Drawing from ideas such as movement building and co-creation can deeply enhance this element of the approach. These are some resources which may help to clarify how this can be done: