The Rural Energy Challenge

As part of the development of the Rural Design Centre, we identified some initial opportunities to start working even before the Centre is properly established. We’re doing this through working with partner organisations to identify and solve rural challenges using design thinking. Our first piece of work is around the rural energy challenge.

Energy Challenges

What are the energy challenges facing rural communities and how might we develop sustainable solutions?

Decarbonising the rural areas of the UK is a unique challenge. The scenarios faced by rural communities and businesses are much more varied than in urban environments. Fuel poverty is higher, they’re often off the gas grid, digital connectivity is lower, transport options more limited, amenities and services are in decline and finance and skills are harder to attain for businesses. Despite this, rural areas are often diverse and dynamic, proving great places for people to live, work and visit.

Rural areas need to be included in the push for decarbonisation, which has a tendency to focus at urban environments to date. Meeting current and future energy and decarbonisation challenges in rural communities will require the design of innovative solutions.

The Energy Catalyst

The North East is home to a large and varied rural area, ranging from market and seaside towns to the largest remote rural area in England, hosting a diverse rural economy. The region also has internationally recognised energy innovation and demonstration capabilities, which have recently been united through the North East Energy Catalyst partnership.

The Energy Catalyst brings together public, private and academic partners, with support from the European Regional Development Fund, in order to fully network these capabilities and showcase solutions to global energy challenges in the North East. The partnership will support this innovation challenge, ensuring any potential solutions are connected into the wider regional energy innovation ecosystem.

Decarbonisation Challenges

What are the decarbonisation challenges facing rural North East England communities and how might we develop sustainable social, technical and financial solutions?

Rural areas may have less emissions and more negative emission opportunities, but access to affordable, secure, and renewable energy should be for everyone via an integrated, flexible, and equitable decentralised energy system.

The North East’s Energy for Growth

The North East’s Energy for Growth strategy identifies various energy opportunities and challenges, with unique implications for rural geographies. They include provision of affordable, secure and sustainable off-grid energy, energy efficiency in hard to treat domestic or commercial premises, transitioning to low emission transport in remote locations, deployment of decentralised sources of energy, provision of geothermal heat from disused mine workings, energy storage and flexibility, and developing community-led energy projects.

We want to discover and define current and future challenges faced by rural communities as they decarbonise, and help develop sustainable innovative solutions through engaging with communities, researchers, public and private sector partners who are interested in the theme.

How can you engage?

If you have an idea for solutions to this challenge, contact us with some brief details and we’ll recommend the best route for taking things forward.