I was incredibly honoured to be awarded a Churchill Fellowship on the topic of governance and community energy. From May to July 2016 I traveled to USA, Germany, Denmark, UK and Japan to investigate the changes in electricity markets that are being stimulated by community led energy initiatives. I was asking myself:

  • what will our energy transition look like?
  • will community energy lead the way?
  • how are energy folk learning together about the energy future we could create? (ie those in the community and also those who work deep inside the energy system)

You can read my initial blog about this journey and also a snapshot of South Australia’s challenges as we reach 40% renewable energy. I’m planning to update the latter because if you haven’t been keeping track, South Australia’s energy transition has gone bananas over the past 6 months.

My full report and summary is available on the Churchill website and here. But please start with a summary written for your circumstances from below:

I’ve tried to take the essence of my report and cover it in the following pages.

And here is where I went:

churchill map

California, May 4 to 7-To investigate Community Choice Aggregation schemes and to attend the World Energy Innovation Conference at the TESLA factory. Also targeted interviews of energy transition insiders and activists.

Colorado, May 8 to 14 –The home of the Rocky Mountain Institute and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. I failed to get in to the latter but added excellent technology visits and discussions on the community buyback of the Boulder electricity grid, the failed smart grid initiative, policy development and programs.

Vermont, May 15 to 18 –The Capital of Vermont, Burlington, announced its success in reaching 100% renewable energy. I saw this for myself and explored the challenges ahead with both the Municipal Owned Utility and their rural, investor owned counterpart, Green Mountain Power.

Massachusetts, May 18 –A visit and talk to Coop Power – community energy in action and meeting the people who make this happen.

New York, May 19 to 21 –Microgrid Knowledge conference, geeking about blockchain technology with Brooklyn Microgrid and talking to community activists about the New York REV (Reforming the Energy Vision)

Berlin to Hamburg, May 22 to 25 –Governance for climate change conference, a visit to one of the first energy self-sufficient villages, Feldheim and interviews with the activists behind the Berlin and Hamburg grid buybacks

Copenhagen, May 26 to June 2-A great workshop for policy makers on German and Danish energy transitions. A chat to the bureaucracy about the Danish community ownership settings for renewable energy and attempts to dig deeper on Copenhagen’s smart grid.

Samso, June 3 to 5 –The famous Danish island with 100% renewable energy, its own energy academy and a fully engaged community.

Denmark’s west coast, June 6 to 9 –A long overdue return to the Folkecentre for Renewable Energy, where I first volunteered in the early 90’s. Interesting to understand the energy policy changes of the past 25 years.

Freiburg, June 13 to 15 –Germany’s solar city. I didn’t make it into the Fraunhofer Institute or get a smart grid interview in Mannheim but I visited the energy rebels in Schoenau and admired Vauban, a car free suburb.

Dresden and Munich, June 16 to 22 –One conference on sustainability transitions – local government and academia. Plus Intersolar, the largest gathering of the solar and battery storage industry that I have ever seen.

Edinburgh, June 23 and 24-On the day of the Brexit vote I was understanding the leverage that a small devolved Scottish Government has within an energy policy context that is dominated by Westminster.

Eigg, June 25 to 27 –An off-grid scottish island with a community that was forced to buy back its own island after a string of mishaps with absent landlords.

Inverness, June 28 and 29 –The heart of Community Energy Scotland which spun out of the economic development arm of Government (Highlands and Islands Enterprise). Managed to attend a workshop on social enterprise and a visit to the Findhorn community as well.

Orkney Islands, June 30 to July 2-A time to reflect on cultures as this ancient part of the world tries to become the leader in tidal and wave energy

Manchester, July 3 to 5 –A thrill to meet the academics investigating sociotechnical transitions and to reach out to the local activists with their unique political tensions to deal with.

Bristol, July 6 –By far the most welcoming town, Bristol is rightly proud of its progressive tendencies, great coffee and plethora of energy initiatives.

Wadebridge to Totnes, July 7 and 8 –Down in Cornwall and Devon we find the innovators creating solutions for their local challenges and, in the case of Totnes, offering the template of the Transition Town movement to the world.

Brighton and Lewes, July 11 and 13 –Different models for communities to deliver community energy, revolving very much around the skills and championship of local leaders.

London, July 18 –Regulation and markets. The innovation agenda of OFGEM and how it plays out in various experiments across the UK electricity system.

Sapporo, July 21 –Like Adelaide, this is a large city with a declining rural hinterland and even its own population is leaking toward Tokyo. They are developing ambitious plans for 100% renewable energy though.

Tokyo, July 22 to 26 –Meetings with activists, consultants, NGOs, academics and government.

Fukushima, July 27 and 28 –A fine way to finish the journey, to hear from a businessman whose world was rocked by the tsunami disaster. If we know the future we want, we have to get out there and make it happen.

And I’m quite proud of what I achieved:Churchill stats