There was a lively discussion at the Wessex Community Energy Network (WCEN) meeting on Friday 25th January, here is a summary of some comments and ideas (including ideas from networking discussions over lunch).
Linking projects and working collaboratively
Jon Rattenbury (South West Energy Hub) mentioned that the Hub will be interesting in facilitating joining up similar projects in different locations.
Felicity Jones ( veroze Partners / Next Generation Fund) mentioned that the Power to Change Next Generation fund is focussed on what community energy may look like in the future and on placed- based projects. Felicity also mentioned that many different skills are required to deliver complex projects and community groups could consider working in partnership with utility companies.
Alison Craig (Salisbury Community Energy) suggested it would be good if there could be more collaborate working between members of WCEN to avoid groups individually bidding for the same funding for similar projects.
Advocacy, engagement and lobbying for improved local energy policies and planning
There was discussion around this topic and the role the community energy sector could play to ensure local authority members and planning officers are better informed on the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change. It was pointed out that most discussions on subsidies for renewable energy ignore the cost of ‘business as usual’, which the IPPC has advised will lead to average global temperatures 4 deg C above the pre-industrial level within the lifetime of a child born today (with associated huge economic, environmental and social costs). Therefore either an effective and increasing carbon tax needs to be introduced, or policies to rapidly increase the uptake of low carbon renewable energy generation and energy efficiency (including targets, supportive planning policies and well- structured financial support).
Dr Nick Murry (Wiltshire Council) mentioned he is intending to develop a sustainable energy presentation to inform decision makers in Chippenham, the area he represents Could this idea be expanded through a collaboration between community energy groups and used in other locations? Is anyone interested in meeting up as a sub-group to explore ways in which we can have more impact on energy policies before the WCEN meeting on this topic (see below – Future meetings)? If so, please e mail email@example.com Any ideas developed could be presented and discussed at the WCEN meeting.
Alex Lockton (General Manager, TH White Installations Ltd) suggested a sub-group could meet to develop a WCEN Communications Strategy. Michaela Wilson, Lesley Bennett, Alex Lockton and Pete West agreed to meet in Chippenham (venue tbc) on Friday afternoon 15th February to progress this. Any members of WCEN with an interest/ experience in comms is welcome to attend. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
There was a discussion on collaboration to present an evidence base for going beyond
existing Building Regulations in reducing carbon emissions in new homes. Damon Rand (Cepro) mentioned there is a strong case for local planning regulations to require heat pumps in well insulated new homes, the cost of which would be partly offset from the savings by not installing a gas network. David Saunders (Zero Carbon Bristol) mentioned that Bristol City Council has a 20% renewable energy supply requirement for new build housing, which will increase to 40%.
Alison Craig mentioned that she has been in discussion with the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) to set up a WCEN micro-site on the Growth Hub pages of the SWLEP website. This would facilitate information exchange between WCEN and the SWLEP members. Alison asked if there was support to set up a WCEN microsite -her proposal was unanimously agreed.
Future WCEN meetings in 2019
Pete West mentioned that he and Lesley Bennett are willing to continue as volunteers as Chair and Secretary for WCEN and cover all basic admin, but would like a small working group to arrange speakers for 2 meetings in advance. The time for someone to arrange speakers can be paid thanks to a small operational grant from Wessex Water.
Pete has already agreed to organise the next meeting to be held in early April at the Quaker Meeting House in Salisbury. Further details will be circulated ASAP. He mentioned the discussion section of this meeting will be arranged as breakout groups discussing topics of interest to the attendees around the theme of internal organisation, management and admin of community energy groups (e.g. asset management, operating community benefit funds, managing interest payments and options for capital re-payments, educational activities with schools etc, etc.)
Pete will canvas WCEN members in advance to select the breakout
groups of most interest- there will probably be up to six in total, e.g. 3 groups of half an hour followed by 3 different half-hour groups.
Michaela Wilson (Wessex Water) said the following meeting after that can be held at Wessex Water offices. It was agreed that this meeting will be on the theme of advocacy and engagement with policy makers and local authorities. Michaela Wilson (Wessex Water), Anna Francis (Frome Community Energy), Cara Naden (Avalon Community Energy), Tom Burnett (Dorset Community Energy) and Liz Warren (Frome Community Energy) agreed to participate in a working group to plan and choose speakers for this meeting. There was a suggestion Bristol City Council should be invited to give a presentation. The time and date for this meeting to be decided (July?).
Over lunch David Lewin (Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy) informally suggested that energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty could be a topic for another WCEN meeting in the autumn. This suggestion could be discussed at the end of the next meeting.
We have a WCEN WordPress website in development https://wessexce.net/ and any volunteer help to improve it would be much appreciated. (indeed!!)
Michaela Wilson suggested an interactive map of WCEN members would be a useful addition to the website (e.g. location map with a pop up giving basic details and web link for community energy groups).