Carbon Co-op member Richard Darlington reports back on the Community Energy Conference which took place in Oxford on 3 September 2016.
It was a combined conference set up by Co-operative Energy and Community Energy England with the title "Powering Forward – rebooting the UK's community energy sector" The now defunct FIT scheme and Enterprise Investment Scheme means there is a need for radical new models. I picked up leaflets from the stalls which I will pass over. There were 320 delegates in addition to those staffing the stalls.
The Conference looked at options
Session One:- Ramsay Dunning of Co-operative Energy.
There is a low carbon commitment with no coal usage. Already Community energy are now 1% of national energy customers. Later we were told that opinion polls tell us that 70% of public support community energy and only 8% are against wind. Even conservative supporters are 75% in favour.
So we need to get public opinion known to help lobby government and local authorities to facilitate community energy including wind.
There is plenty of innovation but regulations are outdated and provide stumbling blocks.
Emma Bridge of Community Energy England.
Founded in 2014 and provides a voice for Community Energy. Has 200 members 80% of who are energy providers.
2015 was a bad year with solar energy loosing 12,000 jobs including changes brought in by this government hence the need for this conference and unsure about Greg Clark.
Community Energy now needs the community to take control – reminiscent of BREXIT?
But Community Energy is not just about energy production but community cohesion so let's raise its profile. (I have a note "Nick Herbert Gov't minister is supportive)
CEE is engaged w. Government looking a what resources might be available. CEE will be setting out its Manifesto soon. 8 – 16 Oct is their Action Week when they will be presenting a petition to Ofgem.
Joe Warren of Powervault.
This was for me one of the most exciting contributions. The development of power storage. He saw the need for this as the missing link in the energy jigsaw. The grid needs it to be more efficient and we in houses and local buildings need it. He showed a picture of a power vault storage unit which looked to be the size of a suit case. Combine these with smar t meters and we could have a step change in energy usage.
Openenergi can deal with sudden response needs. But there are challenges in linking finances with storage.
Mary Gillie of Energy Local
"Making energy work for you"
There is a need to get official l recognition of the place of small local energy generation and conservation. She mentioned forming a club of users and generators so the customer benefits directly. Example Bethesda, a National Trust hydro project with 100 people benefitting. Ynni Ogwen.
She said we are at the foundation level of a new era.
Question. How can we deal with an anti MP? Get the electorate vocal.
Workshop. I chose "Working w. Local Authorities"
Not worth reporting! Other than to say Cornwall has a change to concentrating on small projects as the new crop of Conservative MPs object to large schemes spoiling the landscape!
The German experience of Rising to Challenges by Dr. Andreas Wieg of German Co-operative Raiffeisen Confederation, an umbrella organisation for a German Co-ops.
NIMBYism with wind farms had been an issue till they became Community Energy Schemes. Not just of financial benefit but through participation they promote the local economy. He gave examples with solar panels on football stadium roof. Local Co-op Banks helped too. (FITs have gone too in Germany)
Energy Co-ops can extend their projects to include energy efficiency and retrofits. Even taking over unused buildings and making them available for community use. Acceptance can move to participation.
Tackling fuel poverty and community led energy efficiency.
Graham Ayling of Energy Saving Trust (chair)
Richard Watson of Energise Sussex Coast
Been part of a wide 220 case studies exploring the the data for fuel poverty because very little is known accurately. Local people know their areas best and can lead one to find those who are suffering. So involve local groups, CAB, Age UK, WRVS and local schools. Then set up Energy Clubs and look at health too (e.g Holts estate, which I know about).
Train local champions, set up energy clinics, seek out local contractors willing to form a co- operative partnership and look at trial retrofit schemes to demonstrate what can be done.
Kayla Ente of Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-op. (www.bhesco.co.uk)
This was supposed to be a participative workshop but this lady could not stop bubbling over with her enthusiasm!
She is involved in setting up a local set up to help households reduce their energy costs with a scheme where they pay their savings into her organisation and thus help it be self supporting financially. It seemed to me she was trying to convince herself it would work.
She anticipates that it will bring more Care into the Community by the community. Door to door energy site surveys needed to get the data as basis for action.
Q.A. How does it work?
They lease an energy scheme to a house for say 15 years. It is expected residents will see the benefits and will pay as they go over that period. But too soon to know how it will go.
But all customers want community energy to work.
Tenants of private landlords are having to work with the Council to get combined agreements.
Carbon Co-op Manchester reminded us that people do not ask when their kitchen refit will pay for themselves.
Q. The future?
A. Technology is changing fast at the same time the government is going to be tied up with Brexit.
So it is small community and individual activity that will have to make the difference
But perhaps we need to consolidate all the small community organisations into larger ones.
• Just look back four years and see what has changed, then look forward four years to 2020.
• It is not only energy generation but conservation, efficiency and storage to make a difference.
I had to leave the last session to catch my train