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Community energy business model evolution: A review of solar photovoltaic developments in England


  • Nolden, C.
  • Barnes, J.
  • Nicholls, J.


The ongoing energy system transformation process is placing citizens and communities at the heart of future energy systems. To date, their participation has focused on the ownership and control of renewable energy installations facilitated by supportive national policies. Yet across many European countries, policies that have previously supported the deployment of small-scale renewable projects are being withdrawn. Social innovation and the evolution of business models are needed if citizen participation is to continue and succeed in this new policy landscape. At the same time, few business models stand still. This paper reviews the evolution of community energy business models in England to provide insights into the potential of community participation in the energy system post subsidies. Concentrating on community solar photovoltaic projects as the cornerstone technology, this review identifies and critique three archetypal business models as sequentially dominating English community renewable energy to date. Using insights from both Science and Technology Studies and Transaction Cost Economics, it explores the drivers and origin of these models as well as resulting community benefits. Looking forwards and by reviewing current activity, this paper identifies new intermediary actors as playing a key role in facilitating and brokering new, increasingly complicated and commercial community energy business models. We argue that this marks a significant break from the past and may, in time, offer more opportunities for community participation in energy system transformation. Moreover, it offers some communities the possibility of staying small and retaining their more radical potential.

Suggested Citation

  • Nolden, C. & Barnes, J. & Nicholls, J., 2020. "Community energy business model evolution: A review of solar photovoltaic developments in England," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 122(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:rensus:v:122:y:2020:i:c:s1364032120300198
    DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2020.109722

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Giuseppe Barone & Giovanni Brusco & Daniele Menniti & Anna Pinnarelli & Gaetano Polizzi & Nicola Sorrentino & Pasquale Vizza & Alessandro Burgio, 2020. "How Smart Metering and Smart Charging may Help a Local Energy Community in Collective Self-Consumption in Presence of Electric Vehicles," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 13(16), pages 1-18, August.
    2. Viktor Bukovszki & Ábel Magyari & Marina Kristina Braun & Kitti Párdi & András Reith, 2020. "Energy Modelling as a Trigger for Energy Communities: A Joint Socio-Technical Perspective," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 13(9), pages 1-44, May.


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