In December 2013, the CCRI and Ricardo-AEA (a global sustainability consultancy) were awarded a three-year research contract to evaluate the Rural Community Energy Fund.
The Rural Community Rural Energy Fund was launched in May 2013 to help communities meet the up-front costs of developing renewable energy projects providing a range of economic and social benefits to the community.
The project is being undertaken in four main stages. Stage 1 develops the intervention logic to identify appropriate indicators for monitoring and evaluation. Stage 2 develops Defra’s ex ante cost benefit model of the RCEF and subjects it to independent academic review. Stage 3 collects quantitative and qualitative data at three time points between 2014 and 2016 to produce an interim monitoring and process evaluation of the project. Finally, Stage 4 produces an impact assessment in order to determine the cost-effectiveness of the programme, what has worked well and what has not.
The monitoring data will aim to assess the success of RCEF against a number of criteria (grants issued, loans repaid, number of successful projects, energy generated, households served, contributions to the grid and to the government’s renewable energy targets).
The wider economic and impact evaluation will also capture less direct benefits such as local employment, community cohesion and environmental enhancement. Because these measures can be set directly against the cost of the scheme, the value for money to both Defra and the taxpayer will be transparent. Finally, the process evaluation will highlight lessons to be learned and which can be transferred to other public policy strands within the Rural Economy Growth Review and more widely, including with regards to: the skills required for communities to engage in such schemes, communication between Government agencies and local authorities, the level of private finance available, the role of the planning system, the success of loan repayment, public acceptability and community engagement.
The project is being led by Professor Paul Courtney of the CCRI who will be working closely with Stephanie Cesbron, project manager of Ricardo-AEA’s team, throughout all stages of the project. Dr John Powell and Professor Nigel Curry are also part of the CCRI research team.