The LCCC was a two-year programme in which 22 community projects across the UK implemented various low carbon technologies, community engagement and behaviour change strategies to deliver a low carbon economy.
Problems and Purpose
Low carbon communities challenge was a two-year programme of action research involving 22 community projects across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The project covered 100, 000 people living in 64,000 households. The LCCC aim was to test how combinations of low carbon technologies, community engagement and behaviour change can help drive and deliver the low carbon economy.
While there was considerable diversity across the communities projects, four characteristics were common to all the projects:
- The projects were geographically targeted, area-based initiatives.
- They involve integrated packages that provide a more joined up offering to householders.
- They are testing different models of community scale delivery from projects which are led by community groups through to other projects which involve existing agencies (e.g. local authorities, energy utilities) delivering their services in a geographically-targeted way.
- The approaches draw upon sociological models of behaviour that emphasise the potential for social norms to nudge and trigger widespread, community-wide behaviour change. 
Background History and Context
The LCCC originated from DECC’s Big Energy Shift, a large-scale public dialogue involving nine energy forums across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and supported by Sciencewise. Each forum comprised 25-30 members of the public working alongside a number of stakeholders. This dialogue highlighted the potential benefits of providing households with integrated ‘packages’ of low carbon measures and support, delivered locally in the community.
In response, the LCCC was designed to focus on communities that were already taking action (e.g. they may have been a Warm Zone, eco-town or low carbon community, or a potential candidate for community-scale retro fitting of homes). It sought a broad 40:60 split between ‘first mover’ communities (i.e. those already recognised as exemplars for their carbon reduction plans) and ‘second movers’ (i.e. with less experience, but clear intentions and emerging plans of action for cutting carbon emissions and increasing sustainability). The LCCC provided the 22 communities with funding of £450,000 on average, of which at least 90% was allocated for expenditure on capital measures. Communities were also given access to support services and a common framework to share learning. 
Each community project was supported by Dialogue by Design (DbyD), appointed by DECC, to undertake a programme of co-inquiry and shared learning. The purpose of this strand of the project was to help communities develop an engagement plan that would ensure the involvement of the wider community in their low carbon projects. DbyD facilitators would meet community groups on a regular basis and would communicate findings and experiences to DECC to support their approach and future policy development .
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Cost of project: £587 200 total
Sciencewise funding £186 100 
LCCC was a £10 million two year DECC programme which provided financial and advisory support to 22 communities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The programme was commissioned and funded by the following bodies: Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC); Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland), and the Welsh Assembly . Sciencewise-ERC co-funded specific activities designed to support community engagement alongside review and learning, especially to feed into and influence future national and energy efficiency and low carbon generation policies.
The average LCCC award to the 22 communities was between £400 000 to 500 000 per low carbon project. This varied depending on the nature of the project . Some projects also received other funding through other programmes, for example Nesta’s Big Green Challenge or the London Low Carbon Zones. Further funding of around £4500 per project was reserved for the development of the engagement plan and dialogue activities.
Dialogue by design (DbyD) was appointed by DECC as a delivery contractor, providing a programme of “co-inquiry and shared learning” with the 22 LCCC communities (3:3).
The project evaluator was Natasha Comber of the Office for Public Management (OPM), appointed by DECC.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is responsible for all aspects of UK energy policy, and for tackling global climate change on behalf of the UK.
Dialogue by Design
Dialogue by Design specialises in running public and stakeholder engagement processes using online, paper-based and face-to-face methods.
OPM is an independent centre for the development of public services and provides consultancy, research and leadership development. OPM will be responsible for the evaluation of the project. 
Growth for Knowledge NOP (GfK NOP)
GfK is a market research organisation. It supported the project through conducting two waves of household surveys.
Sciencewise-ERC is a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills funded programme to bring scientists, government and the public together to explore the impact of science and technology in our lives. It helps Government departments and agencies commission and use public dialogue to inform policy making, involving science and technology issues. Its core aim is to develop the capacity of Government to carry out good dialogue, to gather and disseminate good practice, have successful two-way communications with the public and other stakeholders, and to embed the principles of good dialogue into internal Government processes.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
A steering group was in place to provide strategic overview and direction to the LCCC programme. This group had a broad and diverse membership including policymakers from commissioning bodies including DECC, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Department for Enterprise Trade and Investment, and Sciencewise-ERC, as well as stakeholder representatives of community organisations and research and grant making communities.
The delivery group for the LCCC consisted of the relevant DECC policy leads and a Dialogue and Engagement specialist from Sciencewise ERC, as well as an evaluation manager to oversee the overall five strand evaluation programme. 14 facilitators were assigned to one or two LCCC project groups to support events.
An invitation for applications for the LCCC was published on the DECC website on 28 September 2009. It was widely promoted through community networks such as the Low Carbon Communities Network, Transition Towns and EST’s Green Communities membership. (RF)
The application process was split into two phases.
Phase 1 applicants had to deliver their programme of capital measures by the end of March 2010. DECC received 56 appplications of which the top 14 scoring applicants were visited by BRE (an independent research organisation in the UK whose work focuses on supporting organisations in raising the standards of built environment). BRE, on behalf of the DECC, provided an onsite assessment. 10 Successful communities were announced on 21 December.
Phase 2 applicants had to deliver their programme of capital measures by the end of March 2011. DECC received 239 applications, of which BRE visited the top 14 for an onsite assessment. 12 successful communities were announced on 4 February 2010.
Methods and Tools Used
The low carbon projects adopted by the 22 communities varied greatly, demonstrating a diverse range of installations and activities, including but not limited to: energy generation (solar PV panels, wind turbines, air source heat pumps); energy efficiency measures (electric vehicles, insulation, energy saving light bulbs); other activities (food growing, car clubs, cycle parking, zero-carbon café); and engagement to raise awareness through schools and other community hubs. Installations were located on domestic (private and social) and non-domestic buildings.
Some projects were led by community groups, third sector organisations or local authorities; others were partnerships between community groups, third sector organisations and public bodies, such as housing associations and district or parish councils. In each case, there was a core group of one or more people from within these organisations leading the project.
Engagement and behaviour change activities included: training sessions to residents or ‘community champions’ about renewable energy generation, school energy lessons and training for teachers about climate change; open days of buildings with low carbon technologies or measures installed; door knocking, leafleting and posters; community events, fairs, plays, and festivals to raise awareness or celebrate local achievements. Activities also included: local project teams’ visits to homes where low carbon technologies or measures had been installed to give energy and water saving advice residents on correct usage; community meetings or workshops to discuss plans for the installation of low carbon technologies; and, business, home or community building energy audits.
The co-inquiry and shared learning programme delivered by DbyD utilised the following techniques and activities.
This included training local groups to run wider meetings, facilitating development meetings, providing advice.
Facilitators organised review meetings in every LCCC project, to share learning and get a better understanding of barriers, opportunities, decision making and delivery processes.
Information gathered by facilitators at the various meetings was written up and shared online within the project, then collated analysed and reported in the final report by DbyD in July 2011.
A launch event in February 2010 was attended by members of all 22 LCCC local projects.
Growth for Knowledge NOP (GfK NOP) conducted two waves of household survey in each LCCC area, before and after the LCCC. The results of these surveys were provided to all projects to help understand the local community in terms of issues of climate change, fuel poverty and attitudes towards low carbon technologies.
An online portal was piloted over several months in early 2011 to enable local project groups to access information and share learning.
Communities and climate action alliance
The LCCC project teams participated in communities and climate action alliance (CCAA) national conference in London on 16- 17 January 2011. The CCAA event attracted stakeholders from a wide range of national and local organisations to discuss the role for community action in tackling climate change and creating a low carbon society.
Four thematic policy workshops
Four thematic policy workshops were held early in 2011. They brought together individuals from relevant local LCCC projects with national policy makers to discuss four themes, drawing on local experience.
- 4 February 2011, Bristol. Community scale renewables. Attendance: 8 representatives from 7 local project teams, 2 DECC policy makers and 2 facilitators.
- 1 March 2011, Nottingham. Marginalised and fuel poor communities. Attendance: 4 representatives from local project teams, 3 DECC policy makers and 2 facilitators.
- 8 March 2011, London. Domestic energy efficiency. Attendance: 3 representatives from local project teams, 5 DECC policy makers and 3 facilitators.
- 8 March 2011, London. Domestic microgeneration. Attendance: 5 representatives from local project teams, 4 DECC policy makers and 3 facilitators.
Customer closeness visits and visits from DECC LCCC team
‘Customer closeness’ visits were made to two local project teams during December 2011 by DECC policy staff (more visits are planned in the future). During these visits DECC employees, from a range of directorates, visited low carbon installations and spoke to local people about their experiences of living and working with low carbon measures.
A detailed evaluation and monitoring programme involving five strands was designed around the LCCC to capture and disseminate key learning. The evaluation was standardised across the programme to enable comparisons between communities and, in addition, the presence of five control communities to measure the impact against a “business as usual” scenario. The five strands were as follows.
Strand 1: Energy Consumption Data and Carbon Saving Potential
Tracking electricity and gas consumption in each of the communities, as well as calculating the theoretical carbon saving potential of the installed measures.
Strand 2: The Householder Experience
Two pieces of research with households: (a) two household surveys in each LCCC area, one ‘before’ and another ‘after’ the LCCC interventions; and (b) a series of case studies with individual households, reported back via in-depth interviews, film footage and weekly blogs.
Strand 3: The Community Practitioner Experience
Each project has an independent facilitator to hold local meetings and feedback on successes, challenges and barriers. They also enable a process of co-inquiry to help shape the projects’ evolution and strategies for engaging the wider community.
Strand 4: Social Enterprise Action Research
A number of the communities are receiving support to set up as social enterprises, as a result of funding from the Office of Civil Society's Social Enterprise Action Research programme.
Strand 5: Programme Evaluation
This strand is focused on process and the way in which the Challenge was administered, with a particular emphasis on the Sciencewise-funded Community Practitioner Experience Strand .
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
A summary of the projects of each community area is provided in the interim report . A full breakdown of each community project, LCC project measures and technologies, and engagement activities to encourage behaviour change is provided in the appendices of the final report .
This section will focus on the dialogue activity, which took the form of a co-inquiry process, and was delivered through planning and review meetings in each community. This process was independently facilitated to: share learning to take forward local actions, to feed into future national policy, and to improve and learn from community engagement.
Facilitators provided engagement support to each LCCC project. They:
- Helped to organise and deliver engagement with the wider community. As each community had different engagement needs, facilitators worked with groups to review needs and local interests to create a bespoke engagement plan in the early stages of every project, followed by ongoing liaison between the group and the facilitator.
- Offered other support including training local groups to run wider meetings, facilitating development meetings with a range of stakeholders and providing advice.
- Organised a review meeting in every LCCC project to share learning from the experience of delivering the project to develop a better understanding of the barriers, opportunities, decision- making and delivery processes on the ground. Depending on the progress made in the projects, the meetings focused on the experiences of the core project team or the project team and other community participants, such as residents with renewable technologies installed in their homes.
The case study identifies the following key messages from the public engagement process.
- A lack of time was frequently mentioned, both in terms of the application process and project delivery. This had implications for the projects’ ability to undertake engagement and shared learning. Some projects, however, said that the LCCC provided a focus and forced them to prioritise their time.
- The minimal administrative bureaucracy associated with the LCCC was welcomed by projects, particularly in light of the amount of time that projects needed to dedicate to other aspects of project management and delivery.
- DECC’s ‘hands-off’ approach was welcomed by some projects who felt it aligned with a ‘bottom-up’ ethos and signaled a degree of trust. Others, however, equated it to a lack of support, particularly in relation to the challenges around funding.
- The concept of providing help through a Specialist Support Team (SST) was considered sound. However, the nature of the support offered fell short of the requirements of LCCC projects. These tended to require more practical, bespoke and advanced levels of support, not least to address specific problems (e.g. with the planning system, legal advice (including on organisational structures) and procurement).
- The LCCC Steering Group was considered an important forum with a diverse membership. Some felt that it could have been more effective with a rotating chairperson, an opportunity for non-DECC members to set the agenda and a clearer Terms of Reference. Some stakeholders and project teams felt that the LCCC lacked a clear focus and did not articulate exactly what it was designed to achieve.
- Many local projects benefited from working in partnership, which often meant that specialist skills and services could be accessed in-kind or at a lower cost. Local authority and third-sector-led projects tended to be better resourced and had easier access to guidance, but found community engagement more challenging. Community groups felt more able to engage the wider community and bring about behaviour change but felt more exposed to risk (especially around planning and legal issues).
- Projects learnt a lot about the performance of low carbon technologies and their appropriateness for different building types. Several projects favoured technologies with a visual appeal (to contribute to wider behaviour change), which diverted projects’ focus away from energy efficiency.
- All projects described a steep learning curve. Many did note though that these challenges had encouraged them to innovate and that others could benefit from their experiences. Most projects valued the opportunities to share learning, although some activities were considered more useful – particularly those that brought practitioners and policy makers together (e.g. customer closeness visits, thematic policy workshops).
- Many projects felt the additional engagement support added value. Several projects faced resistance in their community, which they believed might have been avoided had they consulted the community from the outset. The perceived ‘fairness’ of the distribution of benefits across the community was a key issue.
- Financial savings were an important initial ‘hook’ to engage local communities. However, once involved people were motivated more by a sense of community and social interaction. Visible measures sparked interest and instilled confidence, with some households saying they explored solar panels after seeing neighbours or ‘people like them’ install them. Households also mentioned the importance of ‘trusted local advisers’ or ‘go to’ local residents who had already had the measures installed .
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
In terms of national policy influence and while recognising that such policy is developed as the result of many influences and cannot be seen as the result of a single programme or process, the LCCC programme has been seen to influence and impact on policy thinking and new priorities, including:
• Learning from the LCCC programme fed into the development of a DECC Community Energy Strategy to be published in 2013. This includes the experience of working with stakeholders through a steering group, which has fed into the development of the Community Energy Contact Group set up by the Minister
• The DECC Minister has stated that “Community engagement in the energy sector will be vital to our vision of the development of energy in the UK in the coming decades” (DECC Community Energy Online Portal, November 2012). Examples of this renewed focus include:
- The Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF), announced in December 2011, demonstrated continued commitment to community energy projects. LEAF was a £10 million programme covering 236 communities
- The results of the LCCC programme were passed to the Green Deal team. From 2013, there was to be a greater emphasis on the role of communities in the Green Deal which provides loans for energy efficiency measures, including a pack to enable the delivery of Green Deal through communities
- Information from the LCCC was used to feed into DECC’s development of proposals for an enhanced role for community groups in energy efficiency activities related to smart metering. DECC has also noted the important role of community organisations in delivering effective consumer engagement.
Impacts on Projects
Local project teams saw the LCCC grant as a catalyst that enabled their groups and communities to become more sustainable and self-sufficient as they began to generate and recycle their own resources – both the energy created and/or the financial resource being directed back to the established community trust or social enterprise for reinvestment in the community. Several projects developed new mechanisms (e.g. revolving funds) to convert one-off LCCC grant funding into a sustainable income stream.
Being approved as a LCCC local project team had enhanced the credibility and legitimacy of the local project team within their communities and with external stakeholders (including with elected members, officers, private business and private finance). This was felt to have a bearing on the delivery of the project and the impact it was able to achieve. It also enabled greater levels of partnership working, in turn increasing the projects’ access to skills, resources and ideas,
Local project groups also reported a signi cant increase in local engagement during and since the LCCC project, providing continuing support for their local work. Some teams found that the LCCC structure, combining local engagement with the physical development of very visible new low carbon energy facilities, encouraged the greater involvement of local people, especially those that project teams had previously found dif cult to engage (e.g. teenagers and older residents)
Quite a few of the projects set up a new social enterprise as a result of the LCCC and many developed new funding mechanisms, including through new organisational structures, typically forms of mutual such as Community Energy Companies, Community Interest Companies or Social Enterprise.
Impacts across the programme as a whole
A total of 8,206 low carbon measures were delivered in LCCC areas, ranging from low energy light bulbs and boiler jackets to a 1.2MW biomass district heating system. The measures were installed on a range of building types (e.g. domestic, commercial and community). Some projects also incorporated additional measures, such as low carbon vehicles and car clubs, allotments and – in one project – a rainwater harvesting system.
Low carbon measures were installed that collectively represented a theoretical annual carbon saving of just over 3,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) .
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The evaluation report identified a number of lessons for future programmes, particularly those relating to community-led energy initiatives :
Lesson 1: Any future national programmes of this sort must carefully consider the timing and process at the start. Inappropriate application, planning and delivery timescales can prevent communities with fewer resources or skills from gaining access to such programmes. Advance notice of new funding streams should be identified and publicised well in advance of deadlines, to give a range of communities time to plan and apply.
Lesson 2: Support offered to communities needs to be tailored to their specific needs and developed with them in a collaborative manner.
Lesson 3: Government involvement in projects such as the LCCC can go beyond setting project requirements and deadlines and providing funds and also include more visits to local project teams and other longer term links that help them to understand the contexts in which policy is being delivered.
Lesson 4: Local project teams and steering group members were keen to continue their involvement in the LCCC to share learning.
Lesson 5: Government can build on the successes of and lessons from the LCCC to ensure that future local energy initiatives can be supported through partnerships with known and trusted community organisations with proven experience of working at a community level.
Lesson 6: National programmes have particular value in supporting community-led projects to deliver low carbon work, both for the local projects and in informing future national policy.
Lesson 7: Future national community-led programmes need to include explicit arrangements for the development and sharing of learning from the start, in order to maximise the potential for that learning to inform and influence future national government policy and practice.
 Department of Energy and Climate Change (2011) “Low Carbon Communities Challenge: Interim Report”, July 2011
 Sciencewise-ERC (2012) “Case Study: Low Carbon Communities Challenge”
 Dialogue by Design (2011) “The low carbon communities challenge: Findings from the engagement support by Dialogue by Design: Final Report”, July 2011
 Office for Public Management (2012) “Evaluation of the process and outputs of the low carbon communities challenge (LCCC)”, January 2012
 Sciencewise-ERC “LCCC” [ONLINE] Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20170110113345/http://www.sciencewise-erc.org.uk/cms/low-carbon-communities-challenge/ [Accessed 20/09/18]