BWCE is working with Encraft on a new project entitled ‘Empower’. It’s testing a new approach to optimising energy performance in domestic buildings. It works by managing energy demand and supply across a community or portfolio connected buildings, rather than merely optimising energy demand and supply an individual properties. To read more follow this link to the article in the CIBSE journal
Your Royal Highness, Smeatonians and guests.
Thank you for inviting me along tonight. I’ve been asked to give you a quick flavor of what community energy is all about.
I’d like to start by giving you up front my assumptions, you may like to agree or disagree, but for me they lay the foundations for why community energy must be a central part of the energy agenda going forward
First, I believe climate change and energy security represent two of the greatest threats to the human race… ever.
Second, the rate of reduction in carbon emissions in the UK may be sufficient to meet coming international commitments in 2020, but it is nowhere near enough to deliver a fair and equitable contribution to our global response.
Third, unless we drastically reduce our reliance on fossil fuels we are also offering our children a world in endless and rapidly escalating conflict.
Fourth, in order to build the acceptance for the scale and speed of change that these things require, we will have to totally rethink our relationship with energy.Click here to read the rest of the speech
At the moment we are consumers, and passive consumers at that. We give our energy suppliers money, they give us energy – a fair exchange you may say. But it also instills a sense that we have the right to use as much energy as we want, or at least can afford.
Community energy challenges this assumption, shifting us from merely passive consumers to being active participants in a process of change.
The community energy vision has three elements, communities owning and benefiting from their own renewable energy projects, that supply energy back to local people, underpinned by a community led approach to demand reduction and energy efficiency.
And by community, I mean both geographically defined communities as well as communities of interest.
The first part of that vision, community owned renewable energy, is the most developed. It involves community enterprises owning renewable energy projects, offering the opportunity for local people to invest and earn a good return and then recycle profits back into meeting community needs. As a result economic value is retained locally, where it’s generated. But it also gives local people a stake in local projects, fostering positive debate and increasing acceptance as a result.
As one example only, Bath & West Community Energy has helped raise £10 million through community share offers that together with debt finance has helped commission or finance 15MW of community renewables, with a pipeline worth over £60 million. We have paid members 7% on their investment for the last three years and will recycle profits from these projects alone that will build to £250,000 per year.
This sector is still small and faces challenges around community capacity and investment readiness but the model is proven and the sector is rapidly growing, with hundreds of community enterprises around the country at various stages of development. Government has established the first ever UK community energy strategy with a 3GW aspiration, creating a fifty-fold increase in community renewables by 2020.
The second part of the vision, creating community controlled local supply coops, goes one step further by enabling local generation to be supplied directly to local consumers, increasing community benefits significantly.
Local supply coops face regulatory and scaling constraints, but there are business models that are emerging within the market that offer some solutions. These models look to aggregate community interests to generate the scale necessary to meet commercial challenges and establish a supply licence.
Together community owned generation and supply offers a radically different way of doing business. One that is based on strong commercial and financially sustainable business principles, but one that also offers a different take on who benefits and who controls.
The third and final leg, a community led approach to energy efficiency and demand reduction involves building a sense of collective purpose, a sense that I am not alone and so my actions can make a difference.
For example a community dimension within the roll out of smart meters and the development of smart grids could increase the visibility of what is happening on energy across a whole community rather than just in our own homes and create new discussions between friends, family, neighbours and colleagues.
Or the delivery of area-based insulation schemes or bulk discount schemes illustrate how the trust and credibility of local community networks can increase the take up of energy efficiency measures.
This is perhaps the hardest area to make progress around. For many reasons, but in particular it’s hard to develop viable business models that value and reward the added value of the community contribution and so community action remains primarily volunteer led and grant dependent and so becomes difficult to replicate and scale.
So to summarise –
The community energy vision is built on three three foundation stones, community owned renewable energy, community controlled energy supply and community led demand reduction and energy efficiency.
These three strands are progressing at different speeds, they face different challenges and there is much to do to make them a reality. But together they offer a different way of doing business on energy, a way of fundamentally challenging our assumptions about energy and forging a response to climate change and energy security that is truly fit for purpose.
Huge congratulations to our very own Chair and founder director Pete Capener on getting recognised for 30 plus years of work in the clean energy sector. He received his award of the Member of the British Empire, or MBE, in the 2015 New Year Honours list for ‘services to sustainable energy. Presumably they will be casting a special medal for him, and fellow sustainable energy champion Barbara Hammond, in recycled metal with a reused cloth bit that it hangs on.
You can read more about Pete Capener and his lifetime of toil in the clean energy vineyard here
The Bath Chronicle reported the story thus with Pete quote as saying “I’m very pleased to have the work that we’ve been doing on community energy acknowledged, recognised and valued. It’s good to see that this is an area of activity that is regarded as important.” He went on to say it would be increasingly important for communities to take control of their energy destiny by finding sustainable ways of generating their own power.
And so say all of us – very well done Pete
Not content with being named Leader of the Year at the UK Community Energy Awards Pete Capener, our chair, has just added another trophy to his groaning sideboard. He was voted South West Sustainable Energy Champion at last week’s ‘Renewable Futures and Green Energy Awards’ held in the Assembly Rooms in Bath. After years of work championing the once unfashionable community energy sector – congratulations Pete – you deserve it.
Following feedback we have decided to extend the time for applications to the BWCE Fund. The fund is open to local groups to apply for grants ranging from £500 to £5000 for low carbon and fuel poverty projects. The new closing date will be 23 January 2015. Quartet are administering the Fund for us so visit their website and download the Criteria and an Application Form. If you have any questions as to what does and does not qualify, or have an idea for a project you need to check out, don’t hesitate to contact us.
It won’t have escaped your notice that we have had a share offer running to raise £1.6 million to build the Wilmington Farm Solar Array. It all looked a bit hard going with 2 weeks to go but, as seems to happen with these things, over a £1 million flooded into Ethex in the final 2 weeks. In fact we reached our target and had to close 5 days early. So a huge thank you and welcome to all our new members and a big thank you to all our existing members who re-invested.
Sorry if you missed out – there will hopefully be another share offer in the New Year so sign up to our newsletter if you’d like to be the first to know. The lesson, as my dear old investment advisor used to say, is that ‘the early bird catches the worm’ – though the portfolio of Annelids he recommended hasn’t being doing so well of late.
We are delighted to have joined the Energy Mentoring programme, led by Co-operatives UK. The new scheme helps groups navigate the often complex financial, regulatory and organisational hurdles faced by ventures looking to develop community energy projects. Read more about the Energy Mentoring programmer here or the full story from the Bath Chronicle.
BWCE have been negotiating a loan from B&NES council for the Wilmington Farm Solar Array. The proposed loan was to be over 15 years and at 6.5%. As you may have read in the local papers the loan was ‘called in’ by 10 Conservative Councillors. This meant we had to undergo examination by a scrutiny panel made up of Councillors from B&NES to make sure that the loan was legitimate and in the best interests of the council tax payers.
As it is part of the democratic process and as a B&NES council tax payer myself, scrutiny is something to be welcomed. We asked our members to write to the panel to help present our case, and at less than 48 hours notice, they responded heroically. A brave number even registered to speak in for our case.
We’re delighted to have won two awards at this month’s Community Energy Awards. BWCE won Community Energy Company of the Year and our chair Pete Capener was awarded Leader of the Year. Pete said, “After many years in the clean energy business it is very satisfying to receive this award. Not many years ago we were a few enthusiasts from Transition Bath sitting round a table with a great idea. Now only four years later we have been recognised as one of the leading community energy companies in the country.”
Many thanks to the Community Energy Awards for this recognition, and congratulations to all the organisations and people who were nominated. You can see the full list of winners on the Community Energy Awards website.
BWCE have been selected as one of the three finalists in two categories for the UK Community Energy Awards. BWCE (and all its members) have been shortlisted in the Community Organisation of the Year category. And our Chair Pete Capener for the Leader of the Year. Pretty impressive we think – so a big thank you to all our members and supporters for getting us so far, so fast. Many of them will be at the award ceremony on the 4th September in Oxford. You can read all about the awards by following the link here
The Community Energy Awards provides an opportunity for organisations and individuals to receive recognition for the work they do in helping communities take control of their energy bills and transform the energy system. So in our view all Community Energy groups should be winners. However it would be especially nice if BWCE and even more especially nice if Pete C ended up actual winners. Does anyone know a judge?