Community Energy Fund

Empowering Community-Led Energy Projects for a Greener Bristol. 

Our £1.5 million Bristol City Leap Community Energy Fund supports and enables community-led energy projects through a combination of grants and loans. This fund has been established with contributions of £750,000 each from Ameresco and Vattenfall, fostering the advancement of community energy initiatives in Bristol. Notably, any profits arising from the energy projects funded by us will be reinvested into the fund, fuelling a cycle of support for future initiatives. 

The funding that we are making available is part of our commitment to social value and this initiative is geared towards accelerating the decarbonisation of Bristol whilst supporting community projects that deliver for local people.   

Angie Rose, Community Engagement Coordinator – “Imagine solar panels adorning community-owned buildings, generating clean energy, and benefiting the local community. Or a project to help make a positive change in community behaviour when it comes to energy saving. These are the type of impactful projects that we encourage and support!”

The aims of the Community Energy Fund

The fund aims to support the development of energy-related community projects in Bristol (defined as the City of Bristol administrative area BS1-16) that will contribute to the decarbonisation of Bristol. It sets out to: 

  • Reduce the use of fossil fuels 
  • Enable communities to interact with the Bristol Heat Network 
  • Support communities to reduce their energy consumption  

To do all of this, the fund will: 

  • Encourage applications from across all communities in Bristol, with a particular emphasis on applications from those community groups who haven’t delivered energy projects in the past and those that have not previously applied for energy funding from this Fund. Note that established community energy groups are eligible to apply.  
  • Help to build capacity of staff and volunteers to be able to deliver successful projects in future.  
  • Place an emphasis on projects that provide clear, quantifiable long-term benefits to the local community that will build capacity within Bristol communities to further engage with energy and pave the way for the next waves of energy projects. 

Great news – if you’re based in Bristol (City of Bristol administrative area BS1-BS16) and part of a community organisation, we welcome your application. Whether you’re a charity, a Community Interest Company, a faith group, or a library, your dedication to creating a greener, more sustainable Bristol makes you a perfect fit for our Community Energy Fund. 

Applications from the following groups and organisations are encouraged:
• registered charities
• Community and voluntary groups
• co-operatives
• Faith and equalities groups
• social enterprises
• Community interest companies
• Community benefit societies
• tenants’ and residents’ associations, or tenant management organisations

For development grants and repayable loans, you will need to be legally constituted hold a bank account which is in the name of the organisation applying and have at least two signatories. For micro-grants and small grant applications, you can partner with a community organisation that meets these criteria.

For your application to be successful we will ask you to demonstrate that:
• You have previous experience in setting up a community-based project
• You will be able to undertake and deliver all funded activity within the agreed timeframes
• You are willing to maximise positive impacts by sharing your learning and experience with others
Key objectives
We are looking for projects that, to help achieve the aims of the fund, will meet all or most of the following objectives:
• Reduce carbon emissions
• Support collective action to reduce, manage and generate energy
• Develop community-led approaches
• Provide direct benefit to the local community
• Build capacity and empower communities
• Generate income or have strong potential to be self-financing in future
• Help increase the resilience of communities vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and energy supply

Additionally, we are also looking for projects that can meet one or more of these additional objectives:
• Support development & energy transition skills of community organisations and individuals
• Identify wider opportunities for job creation, skills training, work experience or apprenticeships
• Collaborate between community groups and maximise positive impacts by sharing learning and experience
• Ensure appropriate inclusion and targeting of under-represented groups
• Leverage other funds, identify joint procurement opportunities for services, establish partnerships, and work with others to maximise efficiencies

Join Bristol’s journey towards a brighter and greener future. Our Community Energy Fund is your opportunity to turn your sustainable energy ideas into reality. Together, we can drive meaningful change and grow Bristol’s reputation as a shining example of community-driven decarbonisation. 

In collaboration with CSE (the Centre for Sustainable Energy), Bristol Energy Network (BEN), and Bristol & Bath Regional Capital, we proudly present this transformative fund aimed at driving sustainable change in Bristol. 

Bristol Energy Network, your local community energy umbrella organisation, is working with us to offer free advice and support to all funding applicants. Our mission is simple: ensuring that a diverse range of community organisations can access funding and support to deliver a new wave of energy projects.  

By helping your organisation to cut carbon and reduce costs, we’ll make a positive impact on the planet and your wallet. 

The potential for renewables installed on a community-owned building, the chance to invest in a community heat network or any other energy project with the capacity to have a positive impact on the community and our environment. The only limit is your imagination.

We want to fund a range of community energy projects that will increase local clean energy generation; reduce carbon emissions (including through heat decarbonisation); reduce energy use; help balance demand with supply, and support communities to reduce their energy consumption.

The types of projects we expect to see coming forward include:

  • Low-carbon building improvements which are expected to catalyse further work (e.g., control systems, draught-proofing, insulation, lighting, heating controls, more efficient heating, and hot water systems)
  • Demand-side response and demand reduction (e.g., through building management systems and smart meters)
  • Low-carbon transport initiatives (e.g., EV charging points, car clubs)
  • Electricity generation (e.g., solar heating and solar PV, heat pumps, hydroelectric)
  • Supporting heat networks – for example, heat generation or heat offtake services.
  • Support for communities to reduce their energy consumption.

(Note: Projects focussed on advice provision will be limited to a maximum of 20% of the funding available through the fund in any funding year and capped at a maximum grant of £20,000 per project.)

Benefit from our grants and zero-obligation loans at a 0% interest rate. We believe in your vision, and that’s why we won’t expect repayment if your energy project doesn’t yield profits. That said, we would love to see loans repaid wherever possible so that we can support even more projects by recycling funds to benefit even more communities. Your success is our success, and we’re here to support you every step of the way with a dedicated project team. 

Types of grants are available?


Application support

  • Up to £1,000
  • Timeframe: approximately 3 months

Small grants

Idea testing and simple feasibility work

  • £1,000 to £5,000
  • Timeframe: up to 6 months

Development grants

Business case development

  • Up to £10K for a single building
  • Up to £20K for a project on multiple buildings
  • Up to £50K for large renewable energy project
  • Timeframe: up to 12 months
  • Milestones will be identified in the application

Repayable loans

Development of investment-ready projects

  • £25,000 to £50,000
  • Proposals will include key milestones and a date by which time all work required to get a community energy project ‘investor ready’ will have been undertaken

As part of the expansion of Bristol’s heat network being delivered by our partners, Vattenfall, we are keen to identify heat generation and heat connection projects which could be supported through our £1.5 million Bristol City Leap Community Energy Fund. This fund can support community connections to Bristol’s growing district heat network, including conducting feasibility studies and funding the physical connections themselves.

To find out more information about these projects, view the digital guide here.

The £1.5 million has been made available for the Community Energy Fund from Ameresco and Vattenfall. These two entities have each contributed £750,000, fostering the advancement of community energy projects in Bristol. Notably, any profits arising from the energy projects funded by us will be reinvested into the fund, fuelling a cycle of support for future initiatives. 

The £1.5 million allocated to this fund forms a key component of Bristol City Leap’s dedication to creating social value.