The notion of community-based activity has increasingly been enrolled within carbon governance discourses and programs of recognized and supported activity. Community is a term used in various ways, to distinguish an actor, a scale of activity, a spatial setting, a form of network, and a type of process through which carbon reduction objectives can be implemented. In this review the various expectations linked to community-based initiatives are identified and discussed in relation to the range of meanings of community in carbon governance. Working through and with communities is typically expected to better embed individual behavior change, as well as generate social innovations and facilitate the consensual deployment of sustainable energy technologies. Research into the experience of implementing community renewable energy projects is discussed to explore the challenges involved in realizing such outcomes.