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New open data powered platform for community energy groups

Today we are pleased to announce the winner of our Energy and Environment Open Data Challenge as Community Energy Manager, a service for community energy groups developed by Matthew Wood and Mark Corbin.

Community Energy Manager (CEM) is an online tool that helps community groups to support their local area by facilitating large scale retrofit projects and bulk purchasing. CEM will help groups to develop into viable social enterprises with regular income streams.

Whilst CEM existed as a nascent idea long before the advent of the Challenge Series, Matt and Mark used the challenge process as an opportunity to focus their thinking. The solution came into its own as a product of the Energy and Environment Open Data Challenge run in partnership by the Open Data Institute and Nesta. In this challenge, participants were invited to develop a product or solution using open data that supports communities to:

  • group buy their energy and save money;
  • undertake community based energy efficiency interventions; or
  • start to generate their own energy.

Matt and Mark drew on their own deep understanding of the community energy market and on user research (provided as part of the challenge process) to identify the problem that CEM seeks to address.

In essence, they are working to address the barriers that individual householders face when taking advantage of the energy saving interventions available through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and the Green Deal (GD), as well as organise bulk purchasing initiatives.

Incentives and ambition to overcome these challenges exist across the sector - for example, the recent Community Energy Strategy from the Department of Energy and Climate Change highlighted the Government’s desire to support communities to come together and undertake energy saving interventions, such as external wall insulation. CEM will aggregate these savings and initiatives and enable individuals and communities to select those interventions that are best suited to their situation.

When it is up and running, the service will invite community groups to log their interactions with householders (e.g. surveys, home audits) on CEM and utilise that information to identify key projects they can undertake, for example if 500 people need a new boiler. Through the brokerage service, GD providers and installers will offer referral fees for these “warm leads”, which will provide a revenue stream for community groups. Similarly, if a group wants to launch a share offer for renewable energy investment or organise a bulk purchase of insulation materials, CEM can help facilitate this.

CEM uses open data from the Census and DECC as well as information from Local Authorities to power the service. These open data sources are central to the service as it allows groups to highlight particular areas which have a specific need, so they can support the most vulnerable householders.

After being selected by our judging panel as one of three finalists to receive £5,000 and additional incubation support over the last two months, CEM was chosen as the overall winner to receive £40,000 equity-free seed funding. Matt and Mark plan to use this money to develop the initial launch version of the system, engage community groups in user testing and to broker relationships with ECO/Green Deal providers and retailers/installers of energy efficiency and renewable energy systems.

You can find out more about Community Energy Manager here. If you’d like to be involved in the initial user testing and pilot, sign up to their mailing list directly through their website for further details over the summer.

This blog was originally published on theodi.org. Read the original blog