The Government needs to do more to boost local-scale energy projects such as community-owned solar panels and energy saving schemes, researchers have said.
Initiatives such as community renewables could make a large difference in tackling climate change and boosting energy security, according to a report from University of Sussex and University of East Anglia (UEA).
The Government has launched a new community energy strategy to help small-scale schemes get off the ground, but the researchers said better policy support was needed to boost grass-roots development of energy projects.
Researchers looked at 12 small scale projects including a solar panel project in Brighton, a home energy efficiency programme in Bristol, hydro-electricity generation in Cumbria and a community island buy-out on the Isle of Gigha, Scotland.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, also involved interviewing people responsible for getting community energy projects going.
It found that: "While community energy has successfully grown up in between the cracks of the mainstream energy system it needs to be nurtured and supported... if it is to continue to grow and develop."
Lead researcher Dr Gill Seyfang, from UEA's school of environmental sciences, said: "The combined pressure of global climate change and threats to energy security mean that we will have to think more radically about sustainable energy.
"We wanted to know whether energy-saving community projects, run by voluntary organisations, schools, businesses and faith groups, could help.
"What we found is that there is a great deal of community enthusiasm for small scale innovative projects like this, but the resources available are not always enough to really help them flourish."
"What is really needed is flexible and tailored policy support at all levels.
"The community energy strategy has adopted many of our recommendations for supporting mentoring and intermediary organisations, but much more still needs to be done."
The Government needed to recognise that many community projects aimed at tackling fuel poverty and developing stronger communities, as well as saving or generating energy, and evaluation of such schemes needed to focus on those benefits not just on how much energy they produced.
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokeswoman said: "The coalition is determined to unleash the potential of community energy, helping communities to achieve their ambitions and drive forward a decentralised energy revolution.
"We want to bring more communities together to help them save money."