Our Community Energy Peer Mentoring programme ran from June to December 2021 offering the opportunity for community energy groups and community actors who are interested in energy related projects in England to benefit from free outside expert support on a wide range of issues, from finance to PR and microgrids to renewable heat.
The programme encouraged applications from both new and established community energy groups, providing the opportunity to network with others in the sector, share experiences and learn something new to benefit each organisation.
Each group was assigned an experienced community energy mentor who was responsible for co-ordinating and leading the sessions. Mentoring focused on issues most important to the group as identified in a match-making process.
Each mentor worked with up to four mentees, grouped according to their needs and interest in order to allow groups to share experience and knowledge with each other as a cohort to enhance the conversations and learning throughout the programme.
Examples of topics that cohorts may have focused on in their discussion include:
Technology – focus on a particular technology which the members would like to learn more about such as wind, hydro or heat pumps, along with broader topics such as low carbon transport or renewable heat.
Innovative solutions – emerging technologies and innovative business models such as microgrids, energy storage, using smart energy data or grid flexibility services.
Engaging with people – topics such as fuel poverty, energy efficiency or retrofit, and or general skills such as marketing and communications and raising community shares.
Business development and partnership working – topics such as how to avoid burnout, funding and finance, working within legal and regulatory environments, working in partnership with local authorities, schools and housing developers.
Who are the mentors?
Nine mentors were selected for the programme and lead the successful applicants through the mentoring process.
Kayla Ente, Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-operative
Toby Costin, Crew Energy
Peter Capener, Bath & West Community Energy
Simon Tilley, Hockerton Housing Project
Jonathan Atkinson, Carbon Co-op
Will Cottrell, Brighton Energy Coop
Gill Fenna, Quantum Strategy & Technology Ltd
Richard Watson, Energise Sussex Coast
Ben Dodd, Green Fox Community Energy Co-operative
Why participate in a mentoring programme?
Running a community energy business can be challenging. Mentoring, and being mentored, helps because:
It energises and motivates mentors and mentees to develop their potential.
Enhances interpersonal and communication skills.
It allows for the sharing of successes and failures in an open and supportive environment.
You benefit from the practical experience accumulated by others and avoid reinventing the wheel.
You develop a greater understanding of learning styles and how to share knowledge by asking the right questions, in an appropriate and open manner.
It provides an opportunity to reappraise what you’re doing in a project, ask penetrating questions and find innovative solutions.
Who managed the programme?
Community Energy Peer Mentoring programme was managed by Co-operatives UK who also deliver The HIVE support programme for co-operatives and the Community Shares Booster Programme and who ran the award winning Community Energy mentoring scheme that came to an end in back in 2015.