Communities waking up to the opportunities of producing their own energy
Communities across the south west are waking up to the opportunities that producing their own energy from renewable sources can bring. Rather than simply paying energy bills, communities are getting together to create innovative energy projects to deliver real tangible benefits to their area.
For example, Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN) in North Cornwall is a not-for-profit co-operative, working to transform energy from a cost to a benefit in their area. WREN members calculated that for every 1,000 people, approximately £1 million per year is spent on energy. For Wadebridge, this amounts to £10 million – with the vast majority of that leaving the local and south west economy into the coffers of national and international energy companies. Meanwhile around a quarter of the Wadebridge population lives in fuel poverty.
WREN is working to implement a wide range of renewable energy projects and an energy efficiency programme to capture the economic benefits of energy production for the people of Wadebridge. The aim is to create a new model for local energy generation that demonstrates that going green, rather than being a brake to development, brings prosperity to the local economy. Renewable energy generation technologies under investigation include anaerobic digestion, large scale wind, wood fuel and tidal technologies. In addition, WREN are establishing an EcoPark – a business park built on low carbon and sustainable construction principles – to attract entrepreneurs with low carbon credentials to set up business in Wadebridge. WREN are looking to mainstream their approach – and is working with academic and research partners to evaluate their activity so that others can learn from it. WREN’s ultimate ambition is that a local economic approach to energy generation and use can become the norm for every community.
As well as delivering direct economic benefits, WREN’s energy projects also aim to generate a community trust fund of in excess of £300,000 a year, to be spent on locally determined priorities. A total of £5000 in grants have already been distributed from the community trust fund - Wadebridge Foodbank and Storehouse received £2250 for insulation and to improve its service; the Wadebridge Youth Project received a cheque for £2,250 for a Community Youth Minibus, and the Wadebridge and District Guides received £500 towards a new guide hut.
Pioneering communities across the south west are working on establishing their own local energy economies. Totnes Renewable Energy Society (TRESOC) (www.tresoc.co.uk) is working to realise a commercially viable portfolio of innovative wind, solar, hydro and biomass projects, funded through a local share issue. Low Carbon Ladock (www.transition-lgr.org) won funding through the Low Carbon Community Challenge to deliver a number of renewable energy projects in the parish, including a 20kW wind turbine – the community is now building on its successes to look at larger scale electricity and heat projects. The parish of St Gorran in Cornwall now have their own community owned wind turbines, built with the help of Community Power Cornwall (www.communitypowercornwall.coop). Bath and West Community Energy (BWCE) (www.bwce.coop) has funded 12 solar PV projects through a community share offer, totalling 400KW (enough to power 100 homes), and is investigating further projects. A further 26 community groups across the south west won funding to seed their activities through the government’s Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF).
Recognising the need for support tools and advice for community energy groups across the south west, south west renewable energy industry experts, Regen SW, have launched a community support programme, Communities for Renewables. The programme is supported by a range of partners, including the EU’s ERDF funded INTERREG North West Europe IVb programme and South West Water. The community support programme has developed an online resource for communities in the south west – www.communities4renewables.co.uk – which includes a map based tool for communities to use to help identify potential sites for renewables projects in their area.
Alongside the community support programme, Regen SW and the specialist community wind power company, Green Trust CIC, have set up Communities for Renewables CIC. Communities for Renewables (CfR) CIC works with communities, including Wadebridge, to develop large scale community energy projects that deliver their community energy aspirations.
For more information about support for a community energy project in your area, please contact email@example.com or ring 01392 494 399 and ask to speak to Josie or Hazel.