Community Energy Scotland (CES) is Scotland’s only national charity dedicated to helping communities develop their own renewable energy projects. We’ve helped over 1,000 community groups, and built up a wealth of experience during our ten year existence.

Until recently, that work was limited to Scotland. But in 2009, we started investigating how community energy could be put into practice in the developing world. We initially proposed a community energy development programme in Malawi – where 93% of the population do not have access to electricity.

Our work with the University of Strathclyde resulted in the Malawi Renewable Energy Acceleration Programme (MREAP) securing £1.7 million in funding from the Scottish Government.
In 2012 I relocated to Malawi to head the Community Energy Development Programme there. I work alongside four Malawian Regional Development Officers and our combination of skills, experience and expertise provides a strong foundation on which to develop Malawi’s community energy.

One of the most exciting projects we have worked on so far is the Bondo Hydro scheme, a 75kW micro hydro scheme in the foothills of Mulanje Mountain. It is one of 4 major projects in Malawi that we are closely involved with.

75kW is enough to provide power to 400 homes, 2 schools, a health centre, a maize mill and 3 trading centres which previously had no access to grid electricity.   This project is a first for Malawi and signals a new era in the country’s community energy sector.

The Bondo Hydro Scheme will be Malawi’s first independent power producer. The community has been involved in the project from the start, and have contributed a great deal of work and local materials.

We are currently working to identify more community-based organisations that we can work with. 12 more communities will be selected based on their levels of poverty and distance from the national grid.

We have just secured more Scottish Government funding, moving us closer towards setting up Community Energy Malawi; a partnership between CES and 4 Malawi-based organisations working in community energy. Community Energy Malawi will be a sister organisation to Community Energy Scotland and will drive the development of a community energy sector in Malawi after March 2014.

Community Energy Malawi will be an opportunity to learn from our partners and to build supportive long-term relationships. And we hope that our positive experience will inspire others to take similar action in other parts of the world.

Every year, the Ashden Awards recognise schemes that promote local, sustainable energy. Have a look at this year’s shortlist and at our previous winners for more examples of community energy at work.

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