Emerging themes on energy resilience

Daria Kuznetsova reflects on what we have learnt during the set up phase of our work on energy resilience

Earlier this year it was announced that Access and Big Society Capital would receive £12m and £8m (respectively) to support charities and social enterprises with energy resilience.

It has been a challenging year for charities and social enterprises with rapid rises in energy prices coupled with increased demand for their services. Recent data from the SEUK Barometer revealed that 41% of social enterprises were already dealing with elevated energy prices, a number widely expected to rise.

Meanwhile, the urgency of the climate emergency is deepening, evidenced by the increasing frequency of extreme weather events that have become the norm. As communities begin to face the repercussions of this reality, the need for action becomes clearer. This is why I was really excited to work with Access on the design of how this money could be best spent.

The first phase of this work focussed on engaging with stakeholders from various sectors including charities and social enterprises, social investment intermediaries, grantmakers and organisations focused on energy sustainability. Some significant themes emerged from these discussions:

  • Flexible Solutions: There is no “one size” financial solution and no “one size” energy efficiency measure. Charities and social enterprises will have very different operations that will require bespoke approaches. That’s why Access has maximised the flexibility in the Call for Funds to deliver blended finance for energy efficiency measures and grant funding for energy audits.
  • Barriers Beyond Finance: Financial barriers are key but not the only barriers holding charities and social enterprises back. Lack of data and the need to navigate a complex web of suppliers remain significant challenges. That’s why Access is providing small amounts of grant funding to address some of these non-financial barriers. Requests for Proposals to support are available here.
  • Role of Social Enterprises in a Just Transition: Social and community enterprises have a key role to play in supporting the country to transition to less energy-intensive operations. Power to Change’s Community Recent Business Market Report 2022 found that 72% of community businesses report making a positive contribution to improving the environment or tackling climate change. To help grow the organisations hoping to make a difference, Access is providing blended finance to scale social sector providers of energy efficiency services and strengthen the role of social sector organisations in the supply chain.
  • Capacity Building: Social investors are all at different stages of exploring their role in improving the energy resilience of the sector but most view it as a critical component of their future plans. Access would like to help build the capability in the sector and will be working with a partner to deliver a training programme, alongside the funding. Access hopes this will enable social investors to provide targeted and informed support to the underlying beneficiaries.
  • Scale and collaboration: This is a significant challenge that requires a large-scale solution. Back of the envelope calculations show that hundreds of millions will be needed just to support the community businesses running large, energy-intensive and/or inefficient buildings. Access hopes that many other funders will come together to address this important issue and Access will be working with ACF and others to share learnings.

The full details of Access’s plans are available here. And although the formal consultation is now complete, Access would like to continue the discussion with many of you on the role we can all play in addressing energy resilience and the wider Climate Emergency. Get in touch if you want to chat.