Social enterprise and renewable energy: emerging initiatives and communities of practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Purpose – After years of attempting to develop renewable energy (RE) mainly through large private sector initiatives, the UK government has broadened its approach to provide more support for other actors in this sector. The purpose of this paper is to assess what role social enterprise (SE) activities can play in the development of the RE sector in the UK.

Design/methodology/approach – The approach consists of an initial effort to map the sector in terms of project types; and to assess the benefit of supporting SE activities in RE through an empirical case study. Two types of SE-RE initiatives are examined here, namely a Scottish SE-RE consultancy (the Highlands and Islands Renewable Energy Company – HICEC) and the various SEs it supports in developing RE projects through grants like the Scottish Community and Household Renewables Initiative (SCHRI).

Findings – A typology of enterprise activities in RE is developed, based on activities along the RE supply chain. The case study demonstrates the value of partnership working between HICEC staff and the staff of local SEs, and suggests that the emergence of a community of practice is a key benefit of the SCHRI and the collaborative way in which it was implemented by HICEC. The success of this approach does throw up questions about replicability in different geographical settings.

Originality/value – This is the first paper to explore SE activities in RE. It illustrates that collaborative learning-by-doing by individuals across organisational boundaries is key for the successful implementation of RE projects that are new to the UK.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-185
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Enterprise Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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