Report from Community Energy Seminar 17/18th January 2017

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Community Energy Thinktank Trafford Hall 17/18th January 2017

Session 1 :Community Energy and Government Strategy

Becky Willis (Lancaster Uni and Green Alliance)-

  • Need to engage people in carbon reduction
  • Future of energy- networked, local

Patrick Allcorn (Dept of Business Energy Industry and Science)

  • Govt priority is secure, affordable, clean energy
  • Does not think CE has added significantly to energy generation, but has a role in local demand reduction
  • Funds available: £400m from European fund and £640m from ECO.

Dave Gittins (Severn on Wye Energy based in Wales)

  • More support for renewable in Wales: loans and grants available through Local Energy Support Network; Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.
  • Hydro scheme in Bethesda North Wales selling energy direct to local residents.

Emma Bridge (Community Energy England)

  • Optimistic about future for CE: currently 150MW capacity installed and £100m community investment raised.
  • Sector becoming more diverse: pilot studies being done on electricity storage and LED lighting.
  • Survey of CE organisations being launched later this year.
  • Lots of info available on the Community Energy Hub
  • Community Energy Fortnight starts 24th June


Energy Efficiency/ Fuel Poverty

There was a lot of discussion around the work that CE organisations are doing and can do to encourage households to reduce energy use and to help those affected by fuel poverty. It was recognised that these are related fields but with different goals, as those in fuel poverty with a fixed amount to spend on fuel may benefit from having a warmer home rather than reduced energy use.

Carbon Co-op in Greater Manchester aim to achieve comprehensive retrofit measures which will result in 50% plus energy savings, however they charge £500 for an assessment and measures can cost £10,000 plus so limited to those with strong interest and access to capital or loan, unless grants are available (they have found ECO funding difficult to access). Other groups and organisations are working with local communities and Housing Associations to address issues of Fuel Poverty, often through Home Energy Visits resulting in simpler measures such as energy advice, switching supplier, loft insulation or a new boiler.

Lessons learnt:

  • Carbon Co-op did not find area based leafleting successful; prefer wider publicity eg through local radio to reach those who want to do something.
  • Those in greatest fuel poverty are often vulnerable households who have other support needs.
  • Behaviour change can result in significant energy savings but can be difficult to achieve sustained improvements.
  • Need to establish householder motivation: carbon saving/ comfort/ health benefits/ fuel cost savings.
  • Locally based “Energy Champions” are most effective but need appropriate training.
  • Ashton Heyes achieved 25% reduction in energy use mainly through education
  • Householders may have specific agenda eg help with repairs or boiler controls or understanding energy bills. Need to resolve these first.
  • Some groups and organisations are working with other charities and organisations eg Age Concern, CAB, GP’s. Other partners may include local Housing Associations and Universities.
  • Potential to work with faith groups, schools, groups such as WI to publicise and encourage discussion of energy issues.
  • Strict focus on energy may turn people off but can combine with other things they may be interested in eg growing food, healthy cooking/ eating, health and wellbeing.
  • Private rented property the worst insulated but hard to reach. In Wales, and I think in London, there is a plan for registration of private landlords where by 2018 they would have to meet a minimum EPC energy rating. Needed elsewhere!

Funding for Energy Efficiency measures/ Energy Advice

  • ECO funding through power companies but hard to access.
  • Distribution companies (SPEN in our area) and energy suppliers may have an interest in funding demand reduction initiatives.
  • Local authority initiatives in Oldham and elsewhere have been funded through health service (CCG) .
  • Islington Council has carbon offset funding from new developments.
  • Pay as You Save: funding work from savings on fuel bills. Nationwide is now offering mortgages for energy efficiency work. Triodos Bank also offer unsecured energy efficiency loans.
  • List of other funding opportunities in resource pack which I will circulate.
  • Local Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships may be able to provide funding.
  • Some European funding still available and government have guaranteed funding for any grants approved before we leave the EU.

Renewables and Electricity Generation

Not as much discussion on this compared with Energy Efficiency. Many groups had experience of installing Solar PV on schools and other community buildings, however a key focus for the future is the prospect of battery storage to allow the building users to maximise use of the energy generated.

Two groups described their experience of developing Hydro-electric schemes, however the general feedback was that such schemes are technically difficult and expensive.

More information is available in the resource pack which I will circulate.

Other Initiatives/ Issues

  • One organisation in Manchester  is developing a proposal for recycling coffee grounds which can be made into fuel pellets!
  • Robin Lawler of Northwards HA emphasised the importance of carbon literacy training which they are delivering to their own staff and residents but also more widely to local businesses and organisations, to help people make more informed choices.
  • The issue of business rates for non- residential properties with solar PV or other renewable installations being increased was raised as an issue. This forms part of the current review of business rates. Ironically private schools are charities so would be exempt while state schools will be affected.
  • A significant issue for the future is the electricity distribution network which is not suited to a more decentralised model of energy generation.
  • The Carbon Trust is working with local authorities and Housing Associations on heat networks/ district heating schemes which can be effective where waste heat is generated by a nearby industrial use. Can also work with combined heat and power generation.
  • The DECC energy calculator and the Guardian National Carbon Calculator are interesting tools for looking at national energy strategy.