BWCE mentors new groups

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 loan and the ‘call-in’

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.

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We’re double winners

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.

Finalists in the UK Community Energy Awards

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?

Scaling up Community Energy: a how-to Guide

First Published by Brighton Energy Co-op by Will Cottrell

We’ve done well. Really well. The 40-odd energy coops that exist across the country have so far raised £18m quid for spanking new renewable installations. In 2013 131 new energy coops were registered, so we’re looking forward to seeing things grow hugely in 2014. Exciting times.

Reclaiming the Energy Sector

And yet while this is a fantastic achievement, things need to be bigger still. A few years back I went to an imaginatively-titled seminar ‘Reclaiming the Energy Sector’. It was – and is – a great aspiration. Yet what it really showed to me was that – for communities to really grab the energy sector from the behemoths that currently own it – we need to get much, much larger.

How could that happen? The biggest energy coop in the country provides an instructive example. Spread across 30 acres, Westmill Solar Coop raised £16m in 2011 to take ownership of a 20,000 solar panel (5MW) installation. Westmill has over 1600 members and is the world’s largest community-owned solar farm: Brilliant. But an important aspect of Westmill is that their solar park was already built. A private developer did the legwork, the community took ownership a year after it had been plugged in.
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BWCE and Community Owned Solar Farms

There has been a scramble to build larger solar farms in the past year and practically all of these are commercially owned. These larger projects have been too expensive to develop ourselves but we have been talking to several project developers with a view to buying their projects, once permitted, so that they become community owned. Ironically, it is easier and cheaper to obtain a bank loan for the large projects than the small ones. These projects are in the range 2 to 7 MW so are a step up from the projects we have developed ourselves. If successful they would help us to get to our 2015 target of having £10m invested in community owned projects. At this level we would be starting to make a significant contribution to local energy needs and place BWCE on a sustainable footing for future growth.

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Community Energy Strategy: Opportunities and Strategies

Our chair Pete Capener is a member of the ministerial Community Energy Contact Group that has been advising DECC during the the development of their recently published Community Energy Strategy. He was also author of the report modelling potential community renewable electricity sector growth to 2020, referenced in the strategy and published by DECC at the same time.

In this blog – first published on the DECC website – he gives us his thoughts on the process and where it may lead.

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BWCE advises Government (part 2)

BWCE chair Pete Capener writes:

The Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) recently launched a ‘Call for Evidence on Community Energy’ with the intention of collecting information to help them develop a Community Energy Strategy in the Autumn. The strategy will outline what Government and others could do to ensure community energy projects flourish and become a central part of the UK’s response to climate change and peak oil.

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