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Community Energy England Conference Report 2017

The Voice of the Community Sector

Community Energy England was established in 2014 as a not for profit organisation, set up to provide a voice for the community energy sector and help create the conditions within which community energy can flourish.

Community Energy England Conference 2017

The conference was well attended with lots of enthusiastic and knowledgeable speakers and delegates. I will circulate links to the session presentations when I receive them or see them on the CEE website. I also have some handouts which I will circulate. Meanwhile a few bullet points from the sessions and people I met.

Co-op Energy

David Bird gave a presentation on the energy supplier established by The Midcounties Co-operative. They are keen to enter PPA’s with community energy groups, offering simpler and longer agreements.

Community Energy England State of the Sector Report

  • We contributed to the survey on which the report was based.
  • 222 organisations with 121 MW capacity and 265 GWh of electricity generated.
  • £190m invested in 269 projects and £620k community benefit distributed.
  • 127 staff employed.

Renewable Energy Association

Nina Skorupska gave an interesting scene-setting address.

  • Carbon reduction and renewable programme driven by Climate Change Act 2008 (aims for 57% reduction in CO2 output by 2030) and EU Renewable Energy Directive (15% renewable energy by 2020) but concerns about direction of UK Govt policy and impact of Brexit.
  • Progress being made in reaching target for electricity generation but much more progress needed on buildings and transport.
  • 125,000 people employed in renewable energy sector in UK.
  • BEIS and Ofgem support the idea of a smarter more flexible approach to energy generation and distribution, but much clearer strategy needed for creation of a decentralised energy distribution network and market reform to reduce the power of the large energy supply companies.

Carbon Co-op Manchester

  • Involved in Nobel Grid, a Europe wide study aimed at encouraging clean energy generation, fair distribution of the benefits of electricity distribution, and smart meter and smart grid technologies.
  • Activities in Greater Manchester include Bury Community Hydro (with local network), Biomass Energy Co-op (using coffee grounds) and their own energy efficiency programme.
  • Encouraged that Centrica are pulling out of large scale electricity generation, and the dynamism and collective approach of the Community Energy Movement.
  • Every Home Matters (the Bonfield Review into energy efficiency in homes) delayed by lack of direction by government. Statistics show that the number of UK households being helped by government to improve their energy use fell 75 per cent since 2012.

Network Innovation for Communities

This Ofgem funded programme for engaging community groups in looking at new ways to encourage consumers to reduce and change pattern of energy use was widely criticised by delegates for for lack of focus and clear outcomes, and wasting the time of CE groups, particularly as new renewable schemes often end up funding network improvements to allow schemes to be connected to the grid. More effective to target large industrial users to change patterns of use and to invest in a programme of network reinforcements and storage.

Raising Finance for Community Energy

  • Josh Brewer of Ethex, an ethical investment company spoke about some of the projects they have raised finance for and their research “understanding the positive investor”.
  • 19.5 m people in the uk interested in positive investment.
  • 58% of investment in renewables comes from local area.
  • Need to keep investors informed and be realistic about returns.
  • Jonathon Hick of Social and Sustainable Capital spoke about their role in providing gap funding for renewable projects: short term up front funding or as part of a broad mix of funding.
  • Opportunities in projects with PPA with host building, battery storage and community buyouts of commercial solar farms.
  • Challenge in declining wholesale energy prices.

Brighton Energy C-op

Very active group with many large projects and full time staff. Will Cottrell gave one of the closing addresses and I also spoke to Matt Brown on his work on large scale solar projects with Genfit. Amongst other things Will spoke about their project to power electric buses from solar panels on the roof of the bus station (the solar panels funded by a combination of crowd-funding and m+s grant; buses funded by £250k bond issue) and the work on issue of solar panel kits and arranging solar workshops at a local anti-fracking camp

BHA Hydro Network 2017-06-26

Conference on 29th June, but £275 to attend.

LED Lighting

Met someone from Durham County Council who has run projects on this and I will email him for more informnation.

Stephen Savory Chester Community Energy 26/06/17

New Environmental Forum for Chester

A new environmental/sustainability group has been set up as a result of the Labour Party and the Green Party collaborating in the last general election. The two parties agreed that the Green Party would not stand a candidate so that Chris Matheson would benefit from the majority of green votes in the constituency of Chester. This collaboration is to continue with the establishment of the Chester Sustainability Forum Chester.

The objective of the group is that representatives from environmental groups, businesses, political parties and CWAC officers, collaborate with a common purpose to improve the environmental sustainability of Chester and its surrounding area. The loose geographical area that will be covered is the boundary of the City of Chester Constituency.

The forum will have five formal meetings a year. Each formal meeting will have a theme agreed at the previous Forum. The meetings will be held on a Thursday evening at a date to best fit with the Annual Council Agenda. Prior to each meeting, a one paragraph report will be required from each group to keep everyone abreast of what is going on, and to make the meeting as efficient as possible given the limited time available. The meetings will be action oriented, and a log of the actions will be maintained by the Secretary.

The Chairing of the meetings are expected to be shared between Chris Matheson MP and Colin Watson. CW&C will be represented by cabinet member for the environment – Karen Shore. The Secretary is Colin Watson.

Members are the Conservative Party – being arranged, Labour Party – Matt Bryan, Liberal Party – Paul Roberts, CW&C Officers – Peter Bulmer, Chester Community Energy – Steve Savory, Chester Cycle Campaign – Simon Brown, Chester Transition – Graham Booth, Chester University (Carbon Reduction Unit) – Colin to arrange, Chester Weir Hydroelectric Scheme – Niall Mafadyen, Cheshire Waste Reduction Volunteers – Margaret Warren, CPRE – Jim Cameron, Friends of North Chester Greenbelt – Andy Scargill, FoE – Pete Benson, Frack Free Upton – Phil Combe, Sustainable Solutions Ltd – Sue Lightfoot, TravelWatch NW – Daniel Gordon, Businesses – Colin to arrange,

The first meeting was held on the 13 July2017 and the second is scheduled for 28 September 2017.

Supertrees coming to Chester?


Supertrees are the name that has been coined for the metal structures in the Gardens by the Bay project in Singapore that are used to support climbing plants to increase biodiversity in the largely man-made environment of Singapore. The prefabricated metal vertical gardens are between 25 and 50 metres in height and it is the brain child of Steve Hughes to bring supertrees to Chester, albeit on a less grand scale. Steve’s inspiration from the Singapore gardens has set him on a course to bring supertrees to Chester and his plans to make it happen are already well developed. The aim of the project would be to raise awareness and initiate a conversation of how the city of Chester can improve its commitment to environmental issues, including biodiversity, reducing air pollution and improving city landscapes. It would be a community based project, funded by Steve himself, local businesses, community groups and individuals.

The metal structures provide visual impact and act as support for a variety of climbing plants. The cost estimate for the purchase of 3 supertrees, 3 – 5m in height, is around £7,000. Steve has run many marathons and to raise funds for the scheme is going to run 7 marathons in 7 days in 7 countries starting on the 7th of July this year. The company he works for has indicated that they will match fund the money he can raise.

Steve has already attracted interested parties to the project including CWAC, Chester Zoo, Mersey Forest and community groups in and around Chester. He has been in promising talks with others to site his project within the large roundabout near the new bus station at Gorse Stacks. This site is in need of regeneration and it would be timely to introduce the supertrees into an updated landscaping scheme for the site.

If you would like to support this imaginative and inspiring project you can do so by donating at the “justgiving” website at

and you can contact Steve on

Report of Transition Chester Co-ordinator 2016 – 2017

Community Energy

CCEL installed its first solar pv project on the roof of the Northgate Arena. The project had a shaky start in the early spring of 2016 when CWAC did not approve finance for a replacing the roof where the panels were being installed. After a delay of 4 – 5 weeks the finance problem was resolved and roof repair works were give a high priority. During the summer months CCEL appointed Genfit as the installation contractor and raised the necessary £60,000 for the capital cost by way of a share offer. Shares were offered to the public from the 13 July to the 19 August and reached the required capital in that 6 week period. The panels were installed in just three days and the system completed on the 20 September 2016. The signing of legal documents has been delayed for several months since installation. It is expected that the roof lease and power purchase agreement will be signed WC 13th March 2017. The final written confirmation of registering the project with Ofgem at the higher FIT rate has still not been received. This is expected by the end of March 2017. The electricity generated by the panels can be monitored in real time by members from their smart devices.

Garden Quarter Project

TC was a partner in a joint project to identify and potentially help mitigate problems of fuel poverty in the Garden Quarter of Chester. Initiated by TC member Arnold Wilkes, the project was motivated by New Homes Bonus funding being offered in the ward by CWAC. In the early summer of 2016, 800 leaflets were posted to mainly terraced houses with a questionnaire to try to identify the most vulnerable homes. Only 5 replies were received. This was followed shortly by Chester University students carrying out an investigation into the thermal efficiency of terrace housing in the ward using a thermal imaging camera. By July, Energy Projects Plus (EPP) had become involved in the project and using their own funding source they initiated another leafletting campaign followed by home visits giving advice to residents. By the end of September, 1800 leaflets had been delivered and eventually 50 homes visits were made. In parallel with the leafleting campaign, a public awareness event was being planned for the autumn entitled “Save Energy, Save Money”. This event took place on the 29 October at the Bluecoats Primary School with 15 charities and organisations giving information and practical advice and help on a range of issues relating to saving energy in the home and saving money on energy use.


The following events were organised or supported by TC/CCEL:

1                    CCEL share offer evening on the 13 July 2016

2                    TC supported the Community Energy Conference on the 15 October 2016

3                    TC supported the Save Energy, Save Money awareness day on 29 October, 2016

4                    TC organised a presentation to the public given by Diana & Simon on their tandem journey from Chester to Istanbul.

5                    Stephen attended the Community Energy Think Tank event on the 17/18 January 2017 and wrote a report which is posted on the website

6                    Members met on the evening of the 16 February to prune fruit bushes in Alexandra Park and the Narrows in Hoole.


A talk and slide presentation was given by Chris Copeman on passive house design principles and the work he did to his own home retrofitting measures to make his home carbon neutral.


A new Transition Chester website was brought online in April 2016 with facilities for membership, contacting and booking the apple press. The site gets about 3 – 4 visits a day.

Suma Wholefood Co-operative

Arnold continued to run the monthly Suma orders for members, generating funds for the group from the 5% charge members pay on each order.

Apple Press

Simon hired out the apple press 21 times in 2016 and collected £210 for Transition funds. The hires were for the following categories:

Schools 6

Community 8

Private 7

Graham Booth

6 March 2017

Report from Community Energy Seminar 17/18th January 2017

Image result for images of Trafford Hall, Chester

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.

Latest Local Fracking News

Gas companies Igas and Ineos have PEDL (petroleum Exploration & Development Licences) for most of West Cheshire also extending into South Wirral and Deeside. The local anti-fracking group is expecting planning applications for exploratory drilling around Chester anytime.


A local campaigner has been granted a judicial review for the extension granted to Igas of PEDL 189 (the one that covers Upton and Mickle Trafford) on the grounds that Igas did not comply with PEDL conditions and therefore should not have been granted an extension. We are currently waiting for the decision from the judicial review and if it goes against Igas they would have to start the PEDL application process all over again.

Sibelco, the world’s largest silica sand producer has applied for planning permission for a 190 acre silica sand extraction quarry near Goostrey which straddles East and West Cheshire. Silica sand is used in great quantities in the fracking process and is extremely dangerous to human health. Breathing in silica dust leads to the long term lung disease silicosis. Originally CWAC delegated planning powers to East Cheshire but this has been found to contravene CWAC’s own rules. The planning application will now have to be approved by both councils. Public comments can still be sent to CWAC until 21 February 2017.

12 Reasons to Welcome Renewable Energy

There are plenty of reasons to embrace renewable energy to supply our future energy needs. Here are the 12 best ones I can think of.

  1. It enables the UK to meet its lawful commitments to the EU and UK parliaments.
  2. It is sustainable.
  3. It is non-polluting with minimal detrimental effects
  4. It has the support of 70% – 80% of the general public
  5. It offers assured and secure energy supply once installed, immune from financial market volatility and political machinations.
  6. It is democratic in that anybody can be a generator of electricity and secure their own supply or a group can secure a supply for their community.
  7. It is already cost effective now and will become cheaper compared to fossil fuel generation in the future.
  8. It creates more well paid jobs throughout its supply chain than fossil fuel generation.
  9. It supports the local economy more than fossil fuel generation.
  10. It increases competition between many generators and negates price fixing by a handful of dominating supply companies.
  11. It engages consumers more directly to encourage electricity demand reduction and the uptake of energy efficiency measures
  12. Its technological approach attracts a wide range of innovators to increase efficiency and reduce cost.

Join the Revolution

The future of energy is the renewable generation of electricity. In the future, burning coal or gas will be as obsolete as the steam engine. The key questions are how long will the transition to renewables take and how will renewables guarantee security of supply. The answer to these questions is not known . Some countries like Germany and Denmark are confident they can reach 85% – 95% of their total energy needs (electricity, heating and transport) from renewables by 2050. The UK has been more conservative in its target setting, committing to achieving 50% of its total energy needs from renewables  by 2050. Under the EU Renewables Directive, the UK has an intermediate target to produce 15% of its total energy from renewable sources by 2020. At the moment just over half that figure (8%) has been achieved. Most of the gains have been from electricity generation, some from heating and hardly any from transport. During the coalition government from 2010 – 2015, government policy and incentives provided investment confidence and the renewable generation industry achieved strong growth of 24% year on year. It also saw rapid growth in community energy projects and the uptake of domestic solar panels. Since the present Conservative government has been in power, this momentum has been lost as government has turned to nuclear and fracking at the expense of renewables. However, the popularity of renewables remains, as does the passion and commitment of everybody engaged in the renewables revolution, from mega corporations to a single home owner. Renewable energy’s time has come and there is no turning back the clock. The public want clean energy and the motivation, investment, technology and most of all, the enthusiasm to make it happen are all here now. Join the revolution!