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 [email protected] if you have any questions or queries about BWCE or any of our plans.

Pete Capener
Chair, Bath & West Community Energy

 

Energy Supply Meeting

Energy Supply Member Meeting on 15th March

Over the last 6 months we, at BWCE, have been evaluating the options open to us for developing a local energy supply offer. We want to be able to give our members and others the opportunity to buy the clean electricity generated by our own installations and those of other local community benefit societies. We will be outlining our proposals at a public meeting for members and ‘not yet’ members – where we will be seeking your views (and asking members to vote) on key aspects of our plans. This is an important development for BWCE as we adapt our business plan for a world beyond subsidies. So please come along and make your voice heard. Our member meeting will be on:

Tuesday 15 March starting at 6.30 pm promptly and finishing at about 8.00 pm at

BRSLI, 16 Queen Square, Bath, BA1 2HN

Not yet BWCE members and the plain curious are very welcome but will not be able to vote on any proposals

What next for BWCE in 2016

Jeff Kenna and the BWCE directors look ahead to 2016

The community energy sector was hit by many negative changes in government policy last year – imposition of the climate change levy on renewable energy, slashing of feed in tariffs, loss of EIS status, planning restrictions for onshore wind. On top of this, oil prices have fallen considerably, leading to an uncertain view of future electricity prices which seriously impacts on the viability of future projects. The government’s energy policy appears to be driven more by the Treasury than by the Department for Energy and Climate Change and nuclear energy and gas are seen as our future energy sources. Ironically new nuclear needs greater subsidies than renewable energy to make it viable and will lead to higher energy bills – the very reason that DECC has said that it needs to cut the feed in tariffs. To rely on gas for our future energy security is giving a hostage to uncertainty and short termism. Prices may be low now but who is going to invest in gas generation without government guarantees on future prices? In addition reliance on gas and nuclear undermine the UK’s resilience and fuel security, based as it is on foreign investment and imports. Unless that is we believe that UK based fracking will eventually produce significant quantities of cheap, useable gas.

The year ended with the Paris Climate Change Agreement and that has signified a global commitment to a low carbon society. There are still major hurdles to overcome. Not least is the agreement of all countries to specific carbon reduction plans that when added together will come anywhere close to minimising global temperature increase to the 1.5 – 2 degrees agreed in Paris. However the headline intention to limit temperature rise to this level makes a substantial statement and those countries that embrace it will be stronger for it. China is the major producer of solar photovoltaic modules and is the largest investor in renewable energy. Germany is on track to become the world’s first renewable energy economy and over one third of renewable energy capacity is community owned. Contrast this long term view from two of our major competitors with the short termism of the UK government. What makes their position even less comprehensible is the that the UK has the best overall renewable energy resources in Europe. Sadly, our political leaders appear to have learnt little from the 2008 financial crisis where short term thinking and wrong measures have led to years of austerity.

So where does that leave community energy in the UK in 2016? Quite simply – we just have to get on with it. We cannot expect any support from Government. Fortunately energy is a fundamental need and providing energy is a profitable business activity. Importantly for us and our members, community energy offers a fundamentally different way of doing business:

  • Through ownership. By encouraging investment in local projects we offer members a tangible stake, with fair returns, in a collective move towards a low carbon society.
  • Social impact. By sharing surplus returns with the local community we can achieve a social impact that goes beyond any conventional business.
  • Resilience. By increasing the take up of community controlled renewable energy, we can take a longer term view. This gives a resilience to our energy supplies that will be unaffected by the vagaries of fossil fuel prices or geopolitical fractures. We believe prices will fluctuate widely in the short term but can only increase in real terms in the long run.
  • Engagement. By creating a stronger link between ordinary energy consumers and local projects we can raise awareness of energy issues, support greater action on carbon reduction and encourage local communities to add their voices to the pressure for change. By changing behaviour and creating a bottom up movement  we will be able to influence policy makers – an essential action in the move to a vibrant low carbon society.

BWCE currently has 7 MW of operating projects at a total cost of £9.5m. There are further projects under construction. We plan to continue to build our generating portfolio and will continue to seek out opportunities that meet our investment criteria. As our track record develops we hope to provide liquidity  to our members – that is the ability to easily ‘cash in’ or transfer their investment – which in turn will improve our ability to raise funds. We will consider other low carbon technologies such as combined heat and power (important for our supply ambitions) and look at the acquisition of existing operating assets. New viable renewable energy projects will be more difficult to find in the short term, but technology prices continue to drop and we are confident we can add new projects to our portfolio in future years.

Our main focus in 2016 will be to work with partners to launch a local energy supply offer for our local communities. We are talking to potential partners including Mongoose Energy and will be running a member meeting in February to discuss our plans. Developing a local supply offer can increase our value chain and by selling electricity directly to local customers we can hedge the price that we receive for generating electricity. It will also create new opportunities on energy efficiency and engagement.

We believe 2016 will be another exciting year for BWCE. Community energy has a valuable, and increasingly important, place in the UK’s energy  landscape. We should look to the long term and not be disheartened by short term government policy.

Government Consultation on the Feed in Tariff & early notification of BWCE share offer

What chance for new community energy projects in the future?

As you may know the government has launched a consultation on the Feed in Tariff, the main mechanism for supporting small to medium scale renewable energy projects in the UK. The proposal is that from January next year, there will be a major cut of up to 87% in the tariff. As you can imagine, this will have a devastating affect on the industry and in particular on our community energy sector.
It is important to note it will not affect our existing projects or those that have already been registered, but it will drastically affect the potential to realise new projects.

The consultation on the proposals can be found here and closes at 11.45pm on the 23rd October. A good summary has been put together by Regen SW and can be found here.

We know the government is getting a lot of responses from the community energy sector and we will be adding BWCE’s voice to this. We hope that you will add yours too. 

In summary, BWCE will be saying that:
1. Community energy is capable of delivering a wide range of additional benefits beyond renewable energy capacity, not least the re-investment of profits back into local communities ensuring that local communities benefit significantly.
2. Even though community energy is rapidly growing, it is particularly vulnerable to such heavy cuts as it has less access to commercial and institutional finance than its commercial counterparts.
3. Within the next few years as the community energy sector matures, communities may posssibly be able to compensate for the loss of the Feed in Tariff through the development of creative financial instruments, perhaps via the Green Investment Bank, or through local supply offers that enable them to secure greater value for their generating assets. But in the meantime they still need support of the FiT.
4. Some renewable energy technologies like solar PV could well reach grid parity within the next 3-4 years, the point at which time renewable energy will no longer need subsidy to compete with conventional energy generation. However the drastic cuts to the Feed in Tariff are too much, too quickly. The harm they are likely to do to the sector will set back the move to grid parity, rather than bring it closer.
5  In the short term, without the Feed in Tariff, it is probable that the community energy sector will wither before it is ready to stand on its own – without subsidy.

In addition we will also press hard for the re-instatement of pre-accreditation which was removed on 1 October. This is the process by which projects can secure their Feed in Tariff level at the point they have planning and a grid connection offer, rather when they commission. Without pre-accreditation it is impossible to model financially whether a project is viable or not. In consequence little can get built with any degree of comfort for potential investors.

What can you do?
You can add your voice to the tens of thousands of others who are responding to this threat to our industry by:
1. Getting involved in the online campaign run by 10:10. Their ‘Keep Fits’ campaign can be found here. Responding to their simple questions provides an easy way of making your voice heard within the context of the consultation.
2. Signing the online petition started by 38 degrees here.
3. Most importantly get in touch with your MP. Ask them whether they are concerned about the prospect of undermining the community energy sector in this way, if you are already a member of a community energy organisation, tell them why you think community energy is a good thing and what motivated you to get involved. Ask your MP to write to the Secretary of State, Amber Rudd, to voice their concern about the impact on community energy and their communities.

A number of MPs, including some Conservatives have voiced their concerns, it is important to encourage more to speak out. We have lobbied our local MPs as have many others in the South West and across the country.

So while stocks last…. 
In the first half of November we will be launching our last share offer to fund projects that have already secured the current Feed in Tariff and so are not vulnerable to the proposed cuts. So, keep looking out for your BWCE newsletter for more news and email us on [email protected] if you are interested in investing. Please forward this newsletter to friends, colleagues and neighbours so they can get involved – while they still can!

Regards

Pete Capener
Chair
Bath & West Community Energy
E: [email protected]
T: 07775781331

Interest payments and EIS certificates

9 October 2015

Interest Payments
An interest payment of 7% per annum was declared at the last AGM for the fourth year in succession. Members should have received by now an email confirming the amount of interest they will receive for their shareholdings up until 31 March 2015. There will have been an email that pertains to each one of their shareholdings. So for example if you hold three share certificates you will have received three emails. If for any reason you haven’t received the emails please contact Peter Andrews as soon as is convenient. The actual payments will be made, by bank transfer, over the next few days. Please note investors in the Wilmington Solar Array will be receiving interest pro rata, dated from the date on their share certificates.

 Enterprise Investment Scheme ( EIS) 3 certificates
The blank EIS 3 certificates have now been received and will be filled in (by hand unfortunately) and sent out to you as soon as possible. For those of you who don’t know how to claim your tax rebate our financial director David Bunker has written these instructions.

How to Claim EIS Relief

HMRC have now authorised the tax submissions made by BWCE so now we can distribute to all qualifying investors a Form EIS 3 which sets out the amount invested and states that the investment is eligible for tax relief.

For Investors who Normally Complete a Tax Return Form

You need to claim the relief on your Tax Return form by completing the Additional Information Section. In Box No 2 on Page 2 you need to enter the total value of the investment upon which you are claiming relief. In the large box on Page 4 of the Additional Information Section you need to provide details of the name of the company invested in , the amount invested, the date of issue of the shares and the name and reference number of the HMRC office issuing the tax certificate. All this information can be found on the EIS certificate we will issue.

You do not need to complete pages 3 and 4 of the EIS certificate. You do not need to send the EIS Certificate to HMRC but you do need to retain it in a safe place. HMRC may request to see the certificate as evidence in support of your claim.

The tax relief will normally be allowed in the year in which the shares were issued to you. If you wish to claim relief against the previous tax year you can either amend the Tax Return previously submitted for the earlier year, or fill out Page 3and 4 as detailed below and send it to your HMRC office.

For Investors who do not Normally Complete a Tax Return Form

If you are employed under PAYE or retired and do not normally complete a Tax Return form, the procedure for claiming relief against tax deducted from you is slightly different. You need to complete the blank sections on Pages 3 and 4 of the EIS Certificate. The details you need about the date of issue and the HMRC office reference number can be found on Page 1 of the certificate.

Detach Pages 3 and 4 of the EIS certificate and send it to the HMRC office that deals with your tax deductions. If you are employed or have a pension from a former employer you will be able to find details of the HMRC office dealing with your affairs from your employer. If you cannot find this information you will need to telephone HMRC on 0300 2003300.

The tax relief will normally be allowed the year in which the shares were issued to you. There is a space on Page 3 of the form to specify if you wish to claim the relief against the preceding tax year.