Renewables: From the Fringe to Near-Normal

Just 10 years ago renewable energy was the preserve of a handful of eco-enthusiasts, many of whom were living an alternative, off-grid life. Now you can pop out in your lunch break and buy your solar panels at Ikea.

So how did renewable energy move from niche to normal in such a short time? Cathy Debenham was there at the beginning of the shift. She knew first hand the need for practical information from renovating her home in 2015. Her experience led her to found YouGen, one of the leading online forums for renewable energy, in 2009.

Since then she has been deeply involved in informing and educating people about renewables and incentives that have supported their growth. She will tell the story of how the market took off, and how online forums like YouGen, government subsidies and access to credible performance data combined to transform the industry. As permaculture strives to demonstrate its potential to a wider audience, she will highlight things to learn from the experience of renewable energy – and things to avoid.


Cathy Debenham is founder and director of YouGen, the UK’s largest community renewables and energy efficiency forum. YouGen helps people to make their homes more energy efficient, and aims to build a UK where local power generation from renewable sources is the norm.

Prior to starting YouGen she had 20 years experience in marketing, branding and journalism in the private and voluntary sectors. She is particularly interested in the challenges of communication around climate change and the move to a low carbon economy; and in branding in values based organisations.

Find out more

Conference session: