Community energy and local markets
Pressure is mounting to improve the environmental credentials of our energy supply – and electricity is often taken as the place to start. The number of community energy projects grows, and with good reason, for local generation and increased consumption can reduce transmission and distribution losses, as well as disrupting the business of the major energy suppliers and reducing their market share.
We already know several projects where community electricity projects are not only bringing people together in a social way, but also helping to reduce their costs and the costs of their supply networks. The next phase is to move towards genuine local markets, where participants can trade between themselves at prices that they agree between themselves. This should be simple, but to trade electricity at a local level is so disruptive that only the brave will consider developing it. Think about the existing settlement system and the mind takes a marathon journey; add the complexities of smart meters and the problem is magnified. But in the broader energy mix, trading heat between households is quite a natural thing to do, and much simpler to measure and charge for. So it may be that trading heat will come first: and trading electricity, second.