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News from Community Energy South

Here is an update on the activities and achievements of Community Energy South, established in 2013 as an umbrella organisation and regional hub enabling its members (local community energy groups and community organisations) to grow as sustainable low carbon businesses in the South East of England.  

The aims of Community Energy South are to:

Generate and supply local energy
Develop local energy services
Build community resilience
Reduce fuel poverty

Community energy is about people coming to together to reduce energy use, purchase, manage and generate low carbon heat and power.

Community energy projects are often delivered collectively by a group or organisation with a focus on engagement, local leadership and strong positive outcomes for the local community. Community groups often have distinct, specific localised goals with an overarching benefit of tackling climate change, energy security and making energy affordable

Message to you from CES

With everything that is happening in the UK and across our world, the Community Energy South team wants to bring news of determination, salvation, inspiration and hope.

Determination from Nicola Davidson’s tale of a bat in a boathouse reflects the hurdles that groups are facing across the UK as we all raced towards completing the projects by the 31 March Feed in Tariff deadline.

Maid Energy now turn towards water source heat projects as their next target and reach out to the sector to cooperate and share best practice.

Salvation from Community Energy England who successfully lobbied BEIS. The Feed-in Tariffs (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 was signed electronically by BEIS minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, a first, apparently and comes into force tomorrow, 31 March. Congratulations to Duncan Law from CEE who led this amendment and building on our visit to meet the Minister earlier in the year.

Inspiration from Jake Burnyeat, Communities for Renewables, from Ferry Farm, down near Chichester where in March they completed their latest transaction bringing their 5MW solar farm into full community ownership and in doing so allocated £40,000 to a Corona Crisis Fund.

Hope from three new South East communities Overton, Marlow and Saffron Walden who are starting out and joining the dots across the south east.  Community Energy South will be reaching out to these groups as best we can in the knowledge that they will also be able to join up, learn from and cooperate with all the other Community Energy groups across the region and the UK and support their communities on the path to Net Zero.

Community Energy South and Community Energy England Spring Conference

Community Energy
Traversing Troublesome Times
ONLINE Spring Conference

Community Energy South has teamed up with Community Energy England to deliver an exciting and informative ONLINE webinar that will bring the community energy sector together on the 30 April.

The event is aimed at community energy practitioners, local authority representatives, project developers, ancillary service providers, electric vehicle providers, storage providers, those interested in low carbon heat, ethical investors, community leaders and anyone interested in creating projects to tackle climate change.

The webinar will take place throughout the day on 30 April, beginning with two morning sessions led by Emma Bridge and Ollie Pendered, covering the State of the Sector 2020, Covid-19 and forging partnerships to support the sector. Next is news from some of our leading projects that are delivering the sector the opportunity to scale up and really support their communities on the race to Net Zero.

The afternoon three sessions will be split into online breakout rooms that will cover the below topic areas with short talks and lots of time to engage in Q&A and discussion. In the coming weeks, we will issue a full agenda and the opportunity to book your preferred breakout topics from each of the three sessions:

Session 1: Organisational wellbeing – Policy – New Markets

Session 2: Regional Strategy and Energy Hubs – Transport & EV Charging – Community Energy and Heat

Session 3: Social Impact – Schools – Climate Emergency

Thanks to our sponsors: UK Power Networks.

The event is free to attend for CEE and CES members. A variety of other sponsorship and exhibition opportunities are available. Please contact liz.sleeper@communityenergysouth.org to discuss further.

Please book your place HERE.

Climate emergency and the governance of community energy business models by Colin Nolden 

Many UK councils and local authorities have declared a climate emergency. Typically, councils and local authorities spend 60% or more of their net revenue budget on adult social care. This leaves less than 40% to spend on all other services, including infrastructure maintenance, recycling and waste collection, parks and open spaces, leisure centres, libraries and emerging issues such as the climate emergency.

Following years of austerity measures and shrinking budgets, few public sector organizations have the finance, skill and capacity to engage in such emerging issues. In practice, this implies that climate action is being outsourced to a wide range of organizations.

Diversifying climate-relevant supply chains such as energy and infrastructure through procurement has a long history among councils and local authorities. This can be achieved through the establishment of public sector intermediaries such as arm’s length organizations or through outsourcing to energy service companies (sometimes referred to as ESCOs). Outsourcing energy services through procurement frameworks such as RE:FIT lowers risk and transaction costs of the contracting decision-making. Traditionally, the profit motive derived from energy savings which underlies ESCO business models has been considered an efficient driver for energy cost reduction and energy service improvement with minimal public sector expenditure.

The scale and depth of changes required to address the climate emergency, on the other hand, is encouraging councils and local authorities to consider alternative business models for sustainable energy service delivery. Community energy organizations are increasingly recognized for their ability to combine such service delivery with beneficial social outcomes beyond the single-minded pursuit of profit. The huge range of approaches to socially and environmentally just energy service delivery under the banner of community energy therefore provides councils and local authorities with a great resource to operationalize both climate emergency declarations and the net-zero carbon target.

The role that individual community energy organizations can play depends on their business model and that of the public sector body they are engaging with. The governance of both these individual business models and the contractual relationship between the two requires careful consideration to avoid unrealistic demands, increasing expectations and mission drift. Yet their co-evolution also harbours great potential for the diversification of energy service delivery beyond the profit motive. Community Energy South will explore the governance of community energy business models in the context of climate emergencies at its online Spring conference on 30th April.

Maid Energy

Maid Energy by Nicola Davidson

It has been a fraught few months at Maid Energy to get our projects to completion – no thanks to a bat…! We laboured over a lease arrangement with our local authority for three of our sites – and it came good just in time. We managed: a 34kW install on a secondary school; a 50kW install on a primary school; two installs on a huge sports club (one without FiT) and 34kW on a boating centre.

The boating centre was our difficult site. We discovered the roof was inadequate so we gifted them a new one in leu of the usual shares in our co-op. Half way through the job we discovered a resident bat and therefore downed tools.

Bat in residence

Lessons learned? Assume old or wooden roofs may host flying rodents – so befriend a bat expert early.

Ensure the local council lawyers understand the value of working with community groups when developing lease arrangements.

We’ve now amassed 6 modest community solar projects since 2015, but our next projects will be huge. First, as I write, we’ve secured £57k in top-up investment to install 107kW on the roof of the new Maidenhead Leisure centre. This will be our largest project and we’re delighted that two of our small installers are joining forces to deliver this together.

Second, we’ve secured £18k to fund a study to investigate suitability of installing a water source heat pump in to the Thames Flood Relief scheme, to replace a few of the failing gas boilers at our athletics centre near Windsor. While we have consultants lined up, we have no experience in this and are on the look out for any experts which might lend some friendly, free advice, please.

Lastly, we’ve just had our best ever attended AGM – via Zoom on the night the lockdown was announced. Some great discussions – and one important question we needed to bottom out: “As we do projects in phases (with FiT, without FiT and now renewable heat) each have different returns on investment. Should tranches of investors receive different returns on their investment?”  The answer was unanimously ‘no’, since the nature of co-op is that we’re all in it together.

I found that rather comforting: a bit like how brilliantly thousands of us are coming together to help each other in this strange virus-ridden time.

BHESCo

BHESCo by Kayla Ente 

We had three sites on educational institutions where we needed to install 221kW of solar electricity generating capacity. The weather was horrible, rainy and cold for the first two weeks of March when the installations were planned. Each site had its specific challenges to overcome. The roof material at one site was different than we expected when we got up on there to install. Fortunately, two sites were installed within 7 working days, with the installers working 10 hour days and over the weekend. The last panel on the last roof was installed on the 17 March. We had enough time to submit our FIT application with the FIT licensee. These have been registered as received, but we have not received approval from the FIT licensee for any of the applications yet, most likely due to delays caused by the pandemic.

Splashpoint Worthing

Brighton Energy Co op by Damien Tow

BEC have had a very busy year making the most of the opportunity to pre register for the FIT which has enabled us to install 1.6MW of PV arrays since January 2019 and doubled the size of our portfolio. We also hope to benefit from the extension of pre registration by 6 months, and we are contacting some of the organisations in our pipeline to see if they are still interested in PV, once we are able to install again. We have also been working on our Next Generation project to connect electric vehicle charge points to some of our PV arrays. The objective behind this is to research what level of EV charging usage and at what price per kwh would create sufficient income to make PV viable post FIT. We have identified 6 locations for the charge points and will be installing them as soon as possible after the lockdown.

News from Ferry Farm Community Solar

£5.5million transaction completed to bring the solar farm into full community ownership

Despite the lockdown and turmoil in the global financial markets, Ferry Farm Community Solar was able to complete the transaction on Friday 27 March 2020. The transaction, which fulfills part of our long-term finance strategy, was funded by a loan from Leapfrog Bridge Finance. It brings our solar farm into full community ownership following our share offer which raised £300,000 in 2017. There will be a further opportunity for people to get involved and invest in the enterprise later this year.

£40,000 Corona Crisis fund mobilised and first awards made in response to the Corona outbreak, Ferry Farm Community Solar has allocated £40,000 to a Corona Crisis Fund to support organisations helping those in the local community facing hardship due to the Corona outbreak and shut down.

The enterprise is in a strong financial position and its incomes and operations are not significantly impacted by the lock down. There is an immediate and urgent need to support those facing hardship due the Corona outbreak, lock down and likely recession. The community has mobilised a support network and funding is urgently needed to support both the support network and the households they are helping.

Read more HERE

Email us!

We would love to hear from you with ideas for future newsletters!

Email us on contact@communityenergysouth.org

Membership Update

This month we are pleased to welcome three new members!
Marlow Energy Group, Sustainable Overton and Saffron Walden Community Energy:

Sustainable Overton

Sustainable Overton is a climate-action community group, set up by Overton Parish Council in Hampshire. It was launched in October 2019, when the Parish Council declared a climate emergency. They are a group of dedicated community volunteers, working with local businesses and the school, as well as other community groups, to deliver a range of activities across the village. These range from ones on the environment, energy supply and efficiency, waste and recycling, transport, and broader communications and marketing. As part of their energy plans, they are into potential community-owned renewable energy initiatives for the village, to help meet the ambitious targets of being carbon neutral by 2030.

Marlow Energy Group

Marlow Energy Group is a Community Benefit Society which is working towards reducing carbon emissions in the town of Marlow and it’s surrounding Parishes by endeavoring to increase renewable energy generation and reduce energy usage.

Saffron Walden Community Energy

Saffron Walden Community Energy is a not for profit organisation set up to work on carbon reduction initiatives in Saffron Walden and Uttlesford.

We have just started up and are trying to establish a number of community scale projects for renewable energy generation.  We are also interested in helping to reduce energy usage and cost, so will provide information about this over time to our community.  As a member of Community Energy South, we are one of the growing number of groups up and down the country who are engaged in grass root initiatives to reduce carbon use. This also indicates to our politicians and to businesses that we are serious about trying to reach zero carbon

If your group or organisation wants to find out more about membership, contact us at jessie.coleman@communityenergysouth.org

Community Energy South is now based in Lewes and is supported by a core steering group of Directors, who all have a wealth of experience in the industry.

Posted 08:52 Monday, Apr 13, 2020 In: Energy,Energy Wise

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