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 [email protected] if you have any questions or queries about BWCE or any of our plans.
Chair, Bath & West Community Energy