On Friday I went down to Exeter to the Community Energy Network Group meeting organised by Regen South West, who are also organising theRenewable Energy Marketplace in Bournemouth on the 18th June. It was really great to meet people and hear about their experiences of implementing sustainable energy projects around the South West, and inspiring to see that Bristol’s thriving community energy sector is within a wider thriving South West community energy sector.
One of the aims of the day was to catalyse input from community groups to the DECC Community Energy Strategy consultation (response deadline 1st August). There was a session which brainstormed people’s thoughts on the benefits of community energy, the barriers to its implementation, and the types of solutions that are being tried. I went away feeling inspired to write a detailed consultation response from the Bristol Energy Cooperative, and to encourage other BEN members to do the same.
I will be posting a copy of our consultation response on our website when this is done, and sending a copy to Regen SW by the 12th July, as they are planning to and submit a collated response. I believe CSE are planning to do something similar. The more individual, group and collated responses there are to the consultation, the stronger the voice of community energy groups will be, and the better a strategy we are likely to get.
If you'd like to be involved in this process and give feedback, please get in touch, and please feel free to post comments with ideas in response to this blog post.
Here are some of the ideas that came up at the RegenSW session on Friday:
- Bristol as ‘Green City’ by 2015 - £bn investment in infrastructure which will result in £100m staying in local area. Bristol solar city
- Local projects help engage all elements of local population
- Potential to change people’s behaviour
- TRESOC potential local benefit £10’s millions and potential jobs in area with lack of skilled jobs. Local lawyers and other professionals are developing skills in renewables
- Economic benefits – local income, funds to reinvest in community – along with broad range of social outcomes – fuel poverty etc.
- Energy security, especially at the end of the national grid in Devon and Cornwall
- Need to engage retired rural population
- Nothing in planning that requires preferential treatment of community projects
- Sites are running out – grid restrictions and CEGs lagging behind commercial sector
- Need wind turbines between 50-500kW – height is often issue in planning
- Objections from air waves – costly to counteract objections. Also from airport – cost of aviation consultants
- Resource and capacity in community groups – dealing with complexity and bureaucracy
- Relationship between with urban and rural – urban has the resource/people, rural has the land, but difficult to negotiate
- Commercial developers should not be able to sit on sites - Localism Act should enable communities to take these over
- Handholding through planning; legal agreements; technical understanding
- Facilitation between urban and rural community groups
- Funding for first 2-3 years of a community project to employ staff
- Dedicated planning team on renewables in all local authorities
- Detailed data on energy demand
- Mandatory community ownership (see evidence from Germany)
- Community FiT/RO/CfD rate or slower degression rate
- Support for innovation/research e.g. feasibility study on setting up ESCo
- Acceptance policy on housing (level of affordable housing required) Something similar for RE (requiring level of community ownership)?
- Revolving fund for at risk funding, which is not paid back if planning is not obtained
- Support to bring in vulnerable sections of society that don’t always engage
- Shared documents/forms/responses to help save time
Any thoughts? What do you think the benefits of community owned energy are? Has membership of the Bristol Energy Cooperative changed your relationship to energy or climate change in any way?