Community-based knowledge sharing in a changing energy sector

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

Growing concerns about climate change and increasing carbon emissions have prompted world leaders, governments, and organisations to consider the transition to a low carbon economy. Rising populations and energy demands are also presenting new challenges for energy grids, with countries facingincreasing energy demands. In the UK the ambition is to become carbon neutral by 2050, but many questions remain about how the country will transition from using fossil fuels to low carbon sources of energy, whilst also reducing energy demand and peak-time pressure on the energy grid.

The private and public sectors are contributing towards the ongoing transition within the UK through initiatives such as SMART metering, the development of electric vehicles and ISO14001 environmental management frameworks. Over the past decade, policy supporting communities to produce their own
energy and therefore decentralise energy production has resulted in many community-based energy groups being formed across the UK. These groups engage in sustainable methods of producing energy for use in their own communities, such as using solar PV and wind turbines. The potential for community-based approaches to developing low carbon sources of energy supply, gives considerable opportunities to increase the scale and size of this effort across the UK.

The effective operation of energy communities relies on them being able to access a range of technical, financial and business knowledge. There is evidence that many communities struggle to gain the knowledge they need. A knowledge-based view has been used to explore how knowledge is shared within these communities, and how this supports the scalability of community-based approaches to carbon reduction. Although knowledge sharing and knowledge management have been extensively considered within commercial organisations, the use of knowledge within community groups is much less well understood, including in energy focused settings. An exploratory approach has explored the types and uses of knowledge within these communities and how it is shared. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were undertaken with members of three energy communities located in the Midlands.

The findings reveal the significant role of knowledge in helping these communities leverage the skills of members, increase the impact of their activities, and ultimately reduce carbon. Several contributions to theory and practice are made. A theoretical framework is developed that describes the process of
knowledge sharing within energy communities. Practically, the research contributes to understanding the nature of knowledge shared within energy communities and the context specific influences on those who share knowledge and how that takes place. These contributions also provide deeper insights into
the role of knowledge and knowledge sharing within community settings.

Date of Award2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorHelen Roby (Supervisor) & Sally Dibb (Supervisor)

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