Monitoring and Evaluating Community Energy

By Admin Leapfrog
18/8/2017

Community Energy provides environmental, social and financial benefits to communities. However, there is currently no tool that enables groups to accurately and comprehensively monitor and evaluate these benefits. Having a standardised monitoring and evaluation (M&E) process and methodology allows groups to have a greater impact in lobbying government, securing finance, promoting their activities in their own communities, tracking their internal development and planning for the future. Pure Leapfrog, in conjunction with SELCE, CEE and BSC have produced a report examining this lack of a M&E tool which can be downloaded here

Based on a literature review and semi-structured interviews with funders, researchers and community energy groups, the report analysed gaps in the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) tools that currently exist for community energy groups and provides an outline of a pilot M&E tool that the community energy movement could begin to use. Interviews were conducted with 10 funders and researchers that are representative of the much-needed support provided to the community energy movement. Researchers and funders often require M&E information from community groups so any M&E tool should take their needs into account to ensure that there is no M&E duplication. The interviews with the funders and researchers identified the need for closer collaboration on existing M&E tools, that the main gap that exists in M&E tools currently is capturing the social impact of projects and; any M&E tool developed needs to be easy to use, limited to key metrics, collect quantitative and qualitative information, and be standardised across the movement.

Interviews were conducted with 9 community energy groups that were representative of the diversity of the movement in terms of technology, location and size of group. These interviews were designed to develop M&E metrics for outcomes. The outcomes identified were as follows:

  1. Avoidance of CO2 Emissions
  2. Protecting and Increasing Biodiversity
  3. Financial Benefits for the Local Community
  4. Return of Value to the Local Economy
  5. Creation of a Community Fund
  6. Increase in Skills, Knowledge, and Confidence
  7. Community Cohesion
  8. Supporting the Formation and Growth of New Community Energy Groups
  9. Awareness Raising and Behaviour Change
  10. Control and Empowerment

The report suggests a range of M&E metrics that could be used to measure progress towards these goals and these are detailed in the Outcome Framework contained in the report. The principal M&E methods that would enable collection of data about these outcomes would be a series of questions to be completed by group coordinators and involve tailored surveys for each area, e.g. an annual species survey of biodiverse sites, a survey for directors, volunteers, interns and staff to measure their learning, and an annual survey for members. This report forms stage 1 of a 3-stage process, culminating in the design and use of a standardised M&E tool for community energy groups. Pure Leapfrog are going to kick off stage 2 in September 2017 and if you are interested in being part of this process or have any comments or questions on the report please contact Aoife O'Leary (aoife.oleary@pureleapfrog.org).