What’s the problem with fossil fuels?
Fossil fuels are formed over millions of years, from decomposing organisms which were trapped under deposits and buried. Coal, oil, and natural gas are examples of fossil fuels. They are found in the Earth’s crust and contain carbon and hydrogen, which can be burned for energy. There is a limited amount of them due to the length of time it takes for them to form, and when we do burn them, they release harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Ending the use of fossil fuels is essential to tackling climate change. Fossil fuels are not renewable – once they’re gone, it will take millions of years to form new coal and oil. It is estimated that fossil fuels will run out completely in 2060 if we continue using them to power our societies.
Fortunately, the use of renewable energy, such as solar power, wind and hydro power, is increasing, but we need to scale up the use of renewable energy so that all communities can benefit from it.
What is community energy?
When we say we want to empower and enable people across South Yorkshire to take climate action, we believe that participation in community energy is essential to this. We can take steps on our own, such as switching our energy suppliers and reducing our energy use at home, but we can make an even bigger difference to our climate when we work together. We know that renewable energy benefits our environment, but it can also benefit people, our local communities and our local economy.
Community Energy England, based here in South Yorkshire, defines community energy as ‘’the delivery of community-led renewable energy, energy demand reduction and energy supply projects, whether wholly owned and/or controlled by communities or through partnership with commercial or public sector partners.’’ Put simply, community energy is generated locally, owned and managed by communities rather than private companies, and often has other aspects such as helping people to reduce their energy consumption.
Aspects of community energy can include supplying energy to local businesses and public services through the installation of solar panels, distributing profits to help the community, tackling fuel poverty through help and advice, and much more!
How can you make a positive impact?
Everyone has a part to play in the community energy sector. Whether you want to invest your money in exciting energy projects, or whether you want to be actively involved in the work, these organisations are always looking for volunteers to help them out with various aspects of their work.
Sheffield Renewables is a local community and a social enterprise which develops, funds, owns and operates renewable energy projects in South Yorkshire. As a Community Benefit Society, their projects are funded through investment from members of the community, with profits being reinvested in the organisation and their projects. Perhaps you know a building they could use as a site to install solar panels, or maybe you want to make a small investment that will make a big difference. Get in touch with them here.
The South Yorkshire Energy Centre is based at Heeley City Farm. It is a unique not-for-profit, energy efficiency demonstration centre in Sheffield. They are dedicated to keeping local people warm and comfortable – they help people to find better energy deals, manage your bills, and improve your home’s energy efficiency. Their friendly staff and volunteers can give you ideas and inspiration to take practical steps – from low-cost measures, such as draught-proofing and energy saving top tips, through to solar panels and ground source heat pumps.
Links and resources
To find out more about community energy: Definition, benefits and potential of community energy
To find out more about renewable energy on the Friends of the Earth website: How renewable energy will power the UK | Friends of the Earth
The Centre for Sustainable Energy is a national charity helping people change the way they think and act on energy: Welcome | Centre for Sustainable Energy (cse.org.uk)