Monthly Archives: September 2014

Co-ops UK Community Energy Conference – 13-Sep-2014

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:

  1. Building partnerships with local authorities
  2. Improving the energy efficiency of homes in our area
  3. Scaling up
  4. 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

  1. EnergyLocal

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).

      1. Gen Community

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.

      1. REScoop.eu

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.

      1. Energy4All

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

  1. 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.

      1. E-Car Club

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.

Conclusions

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.

PoweringUP! Conference – Oxford – 4th September

In company with Nigel from Tring Community Energy (TriCE) I attended the PoweringUP! Conference organised by OxFutures, which is a collaboration between the Oxford city and county councils and local community groups, who have conceived the goal of putting Oxfordshire at the forefront of low carbon innovation in the UK. The event was hosted by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and took place amid the splendour of Oxford City Hall, attended by representatives from local authorities and community energy groups, along with “fringe” companies who provided exhibits – some 200 people in all.

There are some photos and follow up information about the event here.

The introduction and keynote speeches described how Oxfordshire authorities are collaborating with community groups to “power up” by investing of £20 million in renewable energy in the rivers and on the rooftops of Oxfordshire, and also to “power down” through energy efficiency schemes.

Four more speakers then reported on the findings of the working groups which DECC set up following the publication in January 2014 of the department’s Community Energy Strategy. These presentations covered: Hydro generation, Local planning, Finance, and Grid Connections for distributed energy. Although the working groups have only just submitted their reports to DECC, they presented many insights and obviously achieved a great deal in terms of educating the department about community energy.

Coffee was followed by eight tightly-disciplined presentations in “PechaKucha” format. Each was allowed eight minutes to talk through 20 slides, with 20 seconds per slide. Most of the presentations were delivered by two people representing collaborative projects already under way, such as Bath & West, Bristol, Dumfries & Galloway, Carmarthenshire, South Wales Valleys, Swansea and Plymouth, while the first speaker described the OVO Community scheme to support communities seeking to become the local energy provider.

By the close of these presentations I was determined to meet the representatives of our own local authorities shown on the list of delegates, and during lunch embarrassed myself a couple of times by peering closely at name-tags hung over delegates’ chests! It would appear that the people from Dacorum Council either left early or didn’t attend, however we briefly met the delegates from St Albans and Hertsmere.

Ed Davey, Minister of State for DECC spoke after lunch and basically reiterated his statement in January, “I want to see a community energy revolution in the UK”, and then talking up the steps his department is taking to achieve this. The working group reports have only recently been completed, so there were no startling revelations, and his replies to (quite tough) questions were “politically correct”, nevertheless the Minister was enthusiastic and supportive of the work being done to bring about the revolution.

The final sessions were organised as “Open Space” discussions on a range of 15 topics put forward by delegates on the spot. I attended three:

  • OVO Community scheme (requires a large population, and there are other models)
  • How to Engage “Unengaged” Local Authorities (show them it works, talk about the money and social benefits. Successful schemes need a “champion” among both elected councillors and appointed officials)
  • Social Return on Investment of Community Energy (hard to measure, much more work needed)

Conclusions: The conference was well organised and run, and I was left feeling very clear about the importance of GUCE building closer relationships with our local authorities. After all, they are elected to represent, and appointed to serve our local community, so their goals may not be a million miles from our own. Secondly, however, my perception was confirmed that austerity cuts have driven climate change off the agenda of many local authorities, regrettably including our own.

JI  5-Sep-2014