Co-operatives UK Community Energy Conference
Birmingham NEC, 13-Sep-2014
Sinead Devereux and I attended this conference organised by Co-operative Energy to mark the start of Community Energy Fortnight, 13 – 28 September. The purpose of attending was to gain ideas for GUCE’s next steps:
- Building partnerships with local authorities
- Improving the energy efficiency of homes in our area
- Scaling up
- Other stuff
Listening to speakers and talking to other delegates showed how other energy co-ops are developing models we could adopt in all of these areas.
1. Local Authorities.
Pure Leapfrog have produced a booklet on “Community Energy for Local Authorities” which can be downloaded from their website: http://www.pureleapfrog.org/resources.jsp?id=73
Several speakers mentioned the huge scaling up of effort achieved when local authorities and community energy groups collaborate, such as Oxfordshire’s Low Carbon Hub, RegenSW, MOZES in Nottingham, to name but a few.
2. Energy Efficiency
In conversation with another delegate, I realised we might not need to keep applying for funds to start Transition Streets. At Harbury, a village near Leamington Spa, a group of enthusiasts are “just doing it”.
Later on I was strongly recommended to approach Ignite (a subsidiary of Brisitsh Gas) for initial funding and advice to develop a financial model which will allow us to launch and then scale up Transition Streets, so it provides someone with an income for co-ordinating the programme
It was also suggested we approach Watford Community Housing with a combined generation/ efficiency programme, and Sinead is following this up with her contact at Pure Leapfrog.
3. Scaling up
Mary Gillie of EnergyLocal presented a model which uses smart metering to aggregate electricity usage across many households, to negotiate lower “business” tariffs from outside suppliers. For example, if GUCE were to become the Community Energy Service Company (CESCo) to a number of homes (or perhaps a housing association) the benefits of rooftop solar PV generation would be shared across all our customers via lower prices. (A similar model is the OVO Community scheme).
Andy Heald and James Mansfield of Gen Community presented their funding model, which combines community shares with debt financing. As I understood it, relating to GUCE’s model, their scheme would mortgage the future community fund in such a way that money is provided up front for community projects such as Transition Streets.
Established in 2013 in Belgium, but with European scope, to support and develop renewable energy cooperatives promoting education, information and experience exchange, and help overcome financial and banking barriers. Membership for GUCE would be 100 euros. I lost track of the statistics but there are 44 members in UK. Hundreds in Germany.
Mike Smyth explained the role of E4A as another “co-op of co-ops”. I want to find out what services they could provide for a small co-op like GUCE.
4. Other stuff
Threat to S/EIS
Philip Wolfe of Community Energy England outlined the work CEE is doing to head off the threat from HMRC to make community energy schemes receiving FiT, RHI etc. ineglgible for S/EIS tax relief.
See http://www.e-carclub.org How about raising funds to invest in an e-car for Kings Langley? Apparently there are already two somewhere in Maylands Business Park.
Events like CEC and PoweringUP in Brimingham give the feeling that community energy in UK is rapidly emerging from the realm of ideas, to become a really feasible alternative to the established energy market. The example of Germany is inspiring: on summer days over 50% of Germany’s electricity comes from renewables, of which over 90% is owned by communities.