Are we doing enough locally to develop renewable electricity?

It’s helpful to take stock every now and then and consider whether we are doing all we can in whatever our chosen walk of life. So as we develope BWCE’s plans for the next few years, it seemed like a good idea to consider what has been achieved locally on renewables and what can we do better?

An analysis of the Ofgem database on installed capacity (with a little help from Joel at Regen) tells us that by 2010 we had around 150kW of renewable electricity in Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) and by 2016 this had grown to over 22MW. More detailed analysis is underway for the areas just over the border in nearby Bradford on Avon and Corsham. But as data is most easily extracted for whole local authority areas, this analysis is just for B&NES at this stage.

The massive drops in 2013 and 2016 show the impact of the significant cuts in the Feed in Tariff by central government. 2015 however was boosted by the installation of two large community owned solar arrays by BWCE and Chelwood Community Energy.

So, in 2010 we had enough renewable electricity generation to provide the equivalent annual electricity demand of around 30 homes. By 2016 that had grown to around 5,300 homes, or 7% of the homes in B&NES. This is no mean feat, particularly considering that around a third of this capacity is community owned – thanks to the efforts of BWCE and our friends at Chelwood Community Energy. With Keynsham Community Energy also up and running and looking for its first sites we know for certain there is a lot of enthusiasm for local action on renewables.

In the last 6 years we have seen community solar on school roofs, large scale solar arrays as well as a beautiful new modern waterwheel – all developed through a strong community model.

Over their project life, these community renewables alone will put millions of pounds back into the local economy and offer tangible examples of what can be done when we act together.

However should you ask the question, ‘is it enough?’ The answer would have to be a definite ‘no!”

If you compare renewable energy in B&NES with what’s been achieved across the UK in terms of onshore renewables, as a proportion of electricity demand, we are only at a third of where we should be. Whilst we have ‘over delivered’ in terms of solar PV. We have not even got onto the scoreboard with wind. The fact is over 99% of capacity in B&NES is solar. There has been barely any new wind generation installed since 2010.

It is vital now, if we want to meet our targets, that we move the dial on wind energy. It’s not as if we don’t have the sites. The renewable energy resource assessment B&NES council carried out in 2010 showed that we have significant potential for medium scale wind energy projects.

We know that central government has made the situation a lot more difficult with tighter planning constraints and cuts in subsidies, yet as BWCE we are still looking for new sites that could garner local support.

Technology costs are falling and we are not that far away from being able to develop subsidy free projects. So we also believe there is still potential for more solar PV, other technologies like anaerobic digestion and heat pumps, as well as exciting new opportunities for innovative technology and energy supply arrangements including storage and peer to peer trading.

We at BWCE we will be continuing our policy of member consultation with a meeting on 22 April at the  Old Mill Hotel – the site of our new, modern waterwheel. At the meeting we will put forward our proposals for the next few years and get members feedback so that together we can continue to make an impact within the rapidly changing local energy market. If you are a member or bondholder and are interested, you are more than welcome to come along. The meeting will start at 2pm and end at 5pm.

You are also welcome to stay on to 6.00pm when we, with some fine guests, will be raising a toast to the waterwheel.

I hope to see you there, but to help us with the  catering, please let us know if you plan to attend by emailing Peter Andrews from our contact page.

Pete Capener
Bath & West Community Energy

Old Mill 5 (and nearly the last)

Just before Christmas despite some exciting flooding, and in time to qualify for the reserved Feed in Tariff, the Waterwheel at the Old Mill Hotel in Batheaston started turning and generating clean energy for the hotel. Big thanks to all concerned especially the fine workers at Hydrowatt. Click on the picture below to see the waterwheel working in all its glory

The waterwheel has the capacity to generate 13.5kW of electricity – which may not seem much but assuming reasonable river conditions it will generate clean electricity 24 hours a day 365 days a year – thats about 67,000 kWh per year, enough to meet the equivalent annual electricity demand from 20 homes. We  hope that the waterwheel will also act as an education facility and a tourist attraction.

Why don’t you visit the Old Mill Hotel, grab a drink and watch this fine piece of engineering in action.

 

Old Mill 4

Old Mill Hotelwooden-paddles-28-11-16

 

 

The project to install the waterwheel at the Old Mill Hotel is nearing completion. The waterwheel is now complete with the addition of the wooden panels.

 

 

 

Flooding in Bathampton, Bath. | Photographer: Artur Lesniak/arturlesniak.com | Date: 22/11/2016 | Copyright: Artur Lesniak/Trinity Mirror

 

 

 

There was slight delay due in work last week due to flooding.

 

 

Trash Screen

 

 

 

However the flood bypass and the trash screen (yes, that is a picture of a trash screen on your left) are now installed. The electricians, I am reliably informed, are coming on Tuesday and once they have finished the testing of the entire installation will start.

 

 

 

 

 

The water wheel at the Old Mill Hotel  is looking splendid. Please do pay it a visit and buy a beer or a glass of wine in the downstairs bar, as part payment for the disruption caused to the Old Mill staff and owner, while we have been building the waterwheel.

old-mill-long-view-28-11-16

BWCE members interest payments update

25 November 2016

As you will no doubt remember 7% interest has been declared, for the fifth year running, on members shares for the year ending 31 March 2016.

All the interest payments due to members who are paid by bank transfer have now been made. Those for whom we don’t have bank details will be sent a cheque over the next few working days.

We understand the frustration of a slightly later than usual payment but there were extenuating circumstances. These were due to cashflow restrictions bought about by, among other things, a 15 month delay in Feed in Tariff payments following lengthy Ofgem registration processes. This has meant a delay in payments from our expected date by 3 weeks from the statements going out.  All of which was outside of our control and we did flag this problem at our AGM but we understand it is infuriating none-the less.

More details about your interest payments and their tax treatment can be found here

If you have any queries about your payment, email the Community Share Registry  who are handling the payments in the first instance.

BWCE Community Fund helps Time Bank Plus to Empower People to Grow their Own Food

Time Bank Plus has played a big part in building a healthy, vibrant community in Bath and the surrounding area, connecting individuals and groups, and providing a network for people to help each other and feel valued in their local community. This network facilitates voluntary work which allows clients to build up time credits, that they can use to benefit from other people’s services, or donate to those who are in greater need. Time Bank Plus strongly believes that everybody’s time is valuable and everyone has something useful they can offer, it’s just a matter of imagination. Donated credits allow those who require more help than they are able to give to be a supported member of the network.

timebank1Growing Together is an initiative Time Bank Plus started at the beginning of this year to provide everything people need to be able to grow their own food at home. Free training gives individuals the knowledge and practice required to start growing, and the Tuesday meetup group at Bath City Farm allotments allows those without their own gardens to get involved. People can also get in-home advice to assess how their space can best be used for growing, and a buddy scheme facilitates people sharing allotments or just keeping each other company while getting their hands dirty. Thanks to BWCE Fund’s grant, Time Bank Plus can afford to fund a development worker to train and support people, so that their knowledge can be passed on and benefit everyone involved in the Growing Together scheme.

The BWCE Fund was set up by Bath & West Community Energy (BWCE), as a separate charity, to deliver funding to a range of low carbon and fuel poverty initiatives. BWCE are a community benefit society that own and develop renewable energy projects. Surplus profit is distributed via the BWCE Fund with preference given to applications close to sites where BWCE have generating projects operating. BWCE Fund trustee Peter Andrews says ‘this grant was important to us because it reinforces the fact that ‘low carbon’ is about more than just solar energy. Growing food close to where it to be consumed is a major factor in reducing our emissions with the added benefit of providing local people with new skills and access to cheap healthy food’.

Groups that development worker Rowan Wynne-Jones has worked with include the Home Education group which has connected families – parents with children – that work together on a shared allotment to produce their own food, while educating themselves about growing.

Rowan also worked with young people at the local Youth Hub, who were initially very reluctant to get their hands dirty, but gradually broke down the barriers and got stuck in. They have built raised beds and created a vertical strawberry patch, taking ownership of, and rejuvenating unused spaces in their community. They will soon be celebrating their hard work when they harvest tomatoes and sweetcorn for a pizza-making party.”

Rowan has also been leading growing activities with individuals, including a lady with a young family who has improved self esteem through producing delicious homemade chutneys and jams from produce grown in her garden and on the local allotment. Other beneficiaries of the project include a mother with two young children. She wanted her kids to understand where food comes from so decided to transform her unproductive garden into a raised bed allotment, and has just had her first harvest of potatoes.

timebank3After half a year of hard work diligently preparing growing spaces and sowing seeds, suddenly all the plants have shot up, and everybody involved in Growing Together is now reaping the rewards of harvest season.

“It is very satisfying to see people empowered to grow their own, inspired to come together, and fostering greater connections to food. It has been a slow process of small steps but we are now being rewarded for all our hard work” Rowan Wynne-Jones , Development Worker

Energy Efficient Lighting Transforms Atmosphere at Carers Centre

The Carers’ Centre, first established in 1996, supports individuals and families who look after their loved ones. The centre helps over 4000 people every year caring for family and friends with all sorts of illnesses or disabilities. These carers span a wideage range, with their youngest carer only five years old and the oldest about to have their hundredth birthday. Services carerscentre1the Carers’ Centre provide include helping clients build the skills they need to look after their loved one, giving them breaks from giving care and providing emotional support.

An example of someone who has benefitted hugely from the support of the Carers’ Centre is Fiona who, when her husband John had a stroke, dropped everything to solely care for him. She gives the beautiful analogy of an aeroplane safety demonstration that instructs you to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. Similarly it is impossible to give good care when you are not looking after yourself. At the Carers’ Centre she was able to take breaks, doing varied courses and activities such as creative writing and stone carving, and take the time needed to nurture herself. This naturally had the knock-on effect of being able to provide better care for her partner, as well as keeping her sane.  Most carers are juggling their responsibilities alongside a job, school, raising a family, and many other circumstances. While caring for someone can be rewarding, carers often experience high stress, exhaustion and loneliness, and the Carers’ Centre has been a lifeline for countless people.

carerscentre2In June 2016, the Carers Centre won the very well deserved Practical Quality Assurance System for Small Organisations (PQASSO) Level 3 quality mark, the highest possible quality mark for small organisations, making them only the second organisation to ever achieve this. They pride themselves on excellent quality on every level, with hard working staff and volunteers who work as a  well coordinated team with strong leadership. They are also dedicated to listening to and learning from their carers.

Recently  Bath and West Low Carbon Community Fund CIO (BWCE Fund) made a grant of £5000 towards a desperately-needed new lighting system. The Community Fund was set up by Bath & West Community Energy (BWCE), a community owned energy company,  as an independent charity to distribute surplus profits to low carbon and fuel poverty initiatives.

The trustees of the BWCE Fund considered the replacement of older, less energy efficient lighting systems as a good use of grant funding as it has multiple benefits: saving carbon, creating a more pleasant working environment and being cheaper to run and maintain. The old fluorescent strip lights had degraded substantially and become considerably less effective. The funding helped replace them with new LED lighting which is much more efficient and has a longer functional life. The centre has seen a decrease in its energy usage since the change, and has also been able to fulfill its environmental policy. The lighting has also made a huge difference for poorly sighted clients, and has completely changed the atmosphere of the space, with much warmer, brighter, more natural light – due to the diffusers that were chosen. The centre regularly hosts craft fairs, and feedback from all the stallholders was that it was a much more successful and enjoyable event due to the new lighting.

carerscentre3“The lighting system has created a healthier, happier atmosphere with partially sighted carers more able to enjoy the space. It has had a positive impact on the lives of everyone at the centre, and on our energy usage”  Janine Woodward-Grant,
Deputy Chief Executive

 

Old Mill 3

SONY DSC

 

Update 1 September

Things move on apace at Old Mill Hotel. Work has started at the Hydrowatt factory in Germany on the fabrication of the waterwheel. See the pictures above and below. Fingers crossed the circumference of the shutters shown in the Old Mill 2 Blog will be a few centimetres larger than circumference of the actual waterwheel. It is important that the new wheel fits snugly into its housing so that as much energy as possible from the water flowing underneath it is used to turn the wheel to generate electricity.

SONY DSC

 At the same time back at Batheaston the workers have not been idle. The shuttering for the housing for the  generator has  being erected in the concrete poured

Waterwheel generator housingSteelwork for generator housing

Old Mill 2

Shuttering

Shuttering for water channel

The reason this is such an exciting picture for us at BWCE is that is it means the construction of our waterwheel is moving on apace. This is a picture of the shuttering that went into the bottom of the channel the water will course through to turn our water wheel. Shuttering, for those of you who don’t know, is the wooden structure that is used as a temporary former to contain setting concrete. In this case the shuttering went into the bottom of the channel, the concrete was poured and when it has set hard the shuttering will be taken out and we should have a nice curved channel that will exactly fit the diameter of the water wheel.

Water channel under construction
Water channel with workers

 

Workers constructing the channel

 

 

 

Water channel nearly ready for shuttering

 

 

 

Meanwhile in Germany at the Hydrowatt factory the wheel is being built – photo’s to follow.

Old Mill Hotel

Result – At last
Work has started on installing the waterwheel at the Old Mill Hotel. This is especially satisfying news as it was our first ever project, started over 5 years ago and makes a change from lovely and efficient, carbon reducing, but not very photogenic, solar panels. I distinctly remember our first meeting, in 2010, at the hotel, with John Lancaster (now the project manager) and Mr Meshreky the owner, and thinking this shouldn’t take too long!!.

For those of you who can’t remember the project we will be replacing the current decorative waterwheel with one capable of delivering approximately 87,000 kWh per year.  The wheel is currently being built by Hydrowatt in Germany. As the project progresses we will be posting pictures to our website but in the meantime here’s what it looked like on 19 May 2016

WANTED PHOTOGRAPHS
If you are passing across the Toll Bridge in Bathampton or visiting the Old Mill Hotel please stop and take a picture of the site and send it to me for publication on our website. Huge prizes for the best picture.

On the left, as the site was before work started showing the old decorative wheel. On the right, step 1, take the old wheel away!

Old mill now copyOld Mill Waterwheel May 2016

Beyond Solar PV

Beyond solar PV

When we started Bath & West Community Energy (BWCE) it was in our minds to develop a model that embraced the supply of electricity as well as energy efficiency and community renewables. We wanted to make sure more of the profits from the business of delivering energy remained in and benefited local communities.

So at our recent public meeting, we were really excited to be announcing our plans to launch a local energy supply offer in partnership with Mongoose Energy. Mongoose Energy is the majority community owned energy company that we set up last April.

This opportunity comes at a crucial time for the community energy sector. No sooner had we proved the core business model and delivery strategy, that was driving the expansion of community renewables projects, worked and worked well, than the government decided to significantly move the goalposts. It could be argued that we need to move to an environment without subsidies and renewable energy is not far from that point. However it seems reasonable to expect a consistent approach on this point across all energy technologies, including fossil fuels and nuclear power.

It has become obvious that we need to be creative to ensure that the community energy sector can continue to grow and flourish. And, we took the opportunity at our meeting to outline where we are now as BWCE, the challenges we face and how we need to adapt our model to increase the viability of local projects, including embracing storage and supply.

To see our slides on BWCE and how we are looking to develop our business model please see here. Members should contact me if they would like a copy of Mongoose Energy’s slides.

The potential for community energy to have an impact beyond just the generation of electricity, was hinted at by our member survey from last year, when over 50% of members said that they had done some or a lot to reduce their own carbon emissions as a result of being a member of BWCE (see slide 5 in presentation).

So as BWCE we feel we need to reach out to a wider audience and start to involve people who might not have previously thought that community energy had any relevance to them. This is where the energy supply offer fits in. It will enable us to enter into discussions with a far wider group of people about energy, whilst also making sure that a greater proportion of our energy bills are retained locally, to benefit local people and local communities.

After the presentation, at the packed meeting, we had a great discussion with those present. There were lots of excellent questions around governance, reputational risks for BWCE, branding, balancing supply and demand and the related issue of whether our focus should be exclusively on renewable energy or should include high efficiency gas fired combined heat and power projects, how we incentivise local groups and support our members to help us promote our offer, how we can begin to integrate energy efficiency and demand reduction, the role of new technology like smart meters and energy storage.

We will try to integrate as many of the points raised as possible into into the development of our next business plan which will take us through to 2020. There will be a major session on this topic at our AGM, which incidentally will be in September this year. At the AGM we will present our thinking on this and other issues including a number of key options where we will look to our members to influence the direction we take.

Overall people at the meeting were enthusiastic in their support for taking this particular opportunity around energy supply forward. So energy supply will definitely form a key plank of our next business plan.

Keep visiting our website and reading our newsletter where we will announce our launch date later this year. In the meantime click here to express your interest in signing up to become one of the first customers of the UK’s first majority community owned energy supply business.

As ever you are welcome to contact me on pete.capener@bwce.coop if you have any questions or queries about BWCE or any of our plans.

Pete Capener
Chair, Bath & West Community Energy