19 Oct 2017
The Future of Local Energy
Today’s proven technologies can generate sufficient electricity and heating to power neighbourhoods in an entirely decentralised way. Clean micro-generation technologies like wind, solar and biomass, combined with efficiency measures, can deliver clean energy to communities at lower cost. BHESCo has been established to finance the construction of self sufficient communities, generating their own power using efficient, sustainable technologies producing both heat and electricity, distributed via local networks.
Here’s what it might look like…
These communities are still connected to the national grid, however they only draw upon those resources when needed. The majority of electricity transmitted via the National Grid and most of the heat produced by centralised power stations is lost from the point of production to the point of consumption. We aspire to stop this wasteful network, providing better value for money to the taxpayer and the consumer.
There is a growing community of energy groups who are changing the way we think about our energy system and our relationship with it. Carbon Co-op in Manchester, Green Prosperity in Hull, Centre for Sustainable Energy in Bristol and Repowering London are brilliant examples of the community energy revolution in which BHESCo is a passionate member.
In Summer 2017, the people of Lewes celebrated the tenth anniversary of their local energy co-op Ovesco by honouring them on the latest Lewes Pound note.
Ovesco was born out of the Transition Town movement and has gone on to develop many high profile community energy projects in the area, including huge solar installations at Harveys Brewery, Brickyard Farm, and several schools and colleges.
Being commemorated on the Lewes Pound is a brilliant visual demonstration of the way that Ovesco keeps money within the local economy, and adds value to the community far beyond the energy systems they install.
Research on spending shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business 63p stayed in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business.
In contrast to the Big Six energy companies (only two of which are UK owned), community energy groups are rooted in their localities and understand the concerns of residents and stakeholders. You would never find BHESCo or Ovesco, for example, embarking on a project that was opposed by local people, such is the case with fracking plans in Lancashire or oil pipelines in North Dakota.
By embracing the community, and employing local traders and installers to carry out projects, community energy groups are able to support local business and stimulate the local economy. Not only does this benefit domestic job creation, but it has a positive impact on business rates too.
Because community energy groups are owned by local residents, any profits made can be reinvested in developing more locally owned energy projects, instead of being paid out as interest to shareholders. It is also common for community energy groups to channel some of their revenue towards tackling fuel poverty and improving the energy efficiency of cold homes in the area. As well as benefiting individual households, this can also alleviate pressures on local health services as physical and mental wellbeing improve.
In fact, even generating and using energy locally has intrinsic advantages, because it cuts down on transmission losses and is a much more efficient use of the energy produced. In addition, creating a local supply network (such as residents of the Brooklyn Microgrid have recently achieved), insulates a community against external price increases and even possible power cuts.
In all of these ways, whether its creating jobs, reducing bills, or improving health, it is very clear that keeping it local has tremendous benefits for creating an independent and resilient community. When services and insitutions are owned by and run by the people they serve, they will inevitably be responsible, democratic, and sustainable.
Our advice? Act local, join your community energy co-op ASAP.
07 Sep 2017
Earlier this year, Community Energy England produced the UK’s very first ‘State of the Sector‘ report, highlighting the emerging influence and importance of community owned energy in 2017.
The community energy movement has witnessed tremendous growth over recent years, now boasting 222 organisations throughout the country, which can collectively generate 121MW of clean renewable energy. That’s enough to power 85,500 homes, and has reduced carbon emissions by 110,000 tonnes since 2002.
The emergence of this new type of energy ownership and generation is in keeping with a wider transformation of our energy supply.
We are in the midst of a seismic shift in the way we use and consume energy. Developments like electric cars, smart grids, battery storage and demand response will make a huge difference to our relationship with energy by making it more local. Community groups are perfectly positioned to be at the vanguard of this revolution.
Their drive, commitment and local insight provide an ability to put into practice emerging market developments, while the trust associated with being community owned can be vital for encouraging the uptake of new technologies such as smart meters.
In an era of increasing devolution, it is fundamental for communities to invest in initiatives that will improve resilience. As well as generating energy independently (and reducing transmission loss), community energy creates local jobs and keeps money in the local economy. A 2014 government strategy paper on the subject observed that:
“Putting communities in control of the energy they use can have wider benefits such as building stronger communities, creating local jobs, improving health and supporting local economic growth.”
The age when coal and nuclear power dominated the supply market is over. The gigantic power stations and reactors required to generate huge power outputs that travel for thousands of miles through the wires of the National Grid will soon be history . With access to affordable generation technologies like offshore wind and solar power, coupled with battery storage, heat pumps and a more effficient use of energy, we, as communities, are truly able for the first time to seize control of our energy future.
In countries like Germany, 35% of all renewable energy installations are community owned. Our future, here in the UK is also community owned.
Let’s work together to make this happen.
As part of our work providing energy advice we often meet residents who have electric storage heaters installed their homes. Regrettably, it is less often that we meet anyone who is happy with this system.
Storage heaters are notorious for releasing heat when its not needed, and then having no energy left when it gets cold. Thankfully, a new technology called the ‘VCharge Dynamo‘ is hoping to end to this dilemma, offering a reliable way of releasing heat when its needed the most.
Electric storage heating was invented as a way to make use of the surplus energy generated by nuclear power stations at night. The idea is to charge a storage heater using electricity that’s offered at a discounted rate from 12am-7am (called an ‘Economy 7’ tariff). The heater can then be set to release heat when its needed later in the day.
Unfortunately, the reality rarely matches the concept, and many residents complain that the system overheats first thing and then runs out by evening, leaving them freezing at night. However, with VCharge this unreliability will soon be a thing of the past.
Described as a ‘retrofit technology’, VCharge is fitted to existing storage heaters to allow accurate temperature control when needed. The automated system uses cloud-based control to maintain a level of comfort determined by the resident, which can be even be programmed by phone, tablet, or laptop.
And best of all, because the device is cloud-connected, it can intelligently make use of cheap daytime electricity prices that result from the increasing levels of renewable energy generation.
The manufacturer estimates that the VCharge Dynamo can reduce energy consumption and fuel bills by 20%, on top of providing reliable warm homes for residents.
The scheme has already been successfull piloted in Newcastle, and now BHESCo and Community Energy South will be trialing the technology in Sussex.
If you’re in Brighton & Hove and live in a large tower block that has storage heaters, we’d be intersted in hearing from you.
Give us a call on 01273 766 671 or complete our Contact Form.
On Friday 30th June, BHESCo and Community Energy South jointly hosted an event at the Linklater Pavilion in Lewes to introduce ‘RetrofitWorks‘, an innovative online community for generating business in the retrofit industry.
‘Retro-fitting’ means transforming our old, draughty homes to places which are more comfortable to live in, while being less expensive to run.
Over fifty attendees from across the construction sector came along to hear about the scheme and what it can offer.
Adam Bryan, Managing Director, South East Local Enterprise Partnership, spoke first, contextualising RetrofitWorks and the importance of industry co-operation in stimulating growth in the low-carbon sector.
Russell Smith (above right, founder of retro-fit specialists Parity Projects and RetrofitWorks) brought the audience up to date with the platform´s progress and the business it has generated so far.
He explained the benefits of joining the co-operative, which include:
- Using the online Job Portal to easily identify and bid for work in the local area, receiving a percentage of any profit-share.
- Using in-house training schemes to add certifications and lever procurement power for bulk buying discounts.
- Growing business by generating new customers using low cost acquisition methods.
After a well-received buffet-lunch, attendees participated in workshops identifying the challenges and barriers to retro-fitting, and how to best engage potential clients.
Discussion was lively and productive, especially around public and private landlords, both seen as crucial to unlocking the potential of the industry.
At the end of the day we caught up with some attendees to get their feedback. Alex Hunt of Bright Green Homes told us:
“I´m a big fan of RetrofitWorks – it´s about time people worked together getting this agenda forward, and this is the start of something beautiful!”
While Donal Brown, Director of Sustainable Design Collective, said:
“Great day with a lot of solutions-based clarity. Not just well intentioned, the event delivered on professionalism.”
Zoe Osmond of the University of Brighton’s Green Growth Platform spoke of her hope to further the work already begun:
“Fantastic event to introduce this well-developed and visionary tool. I´m enthused and excited by the opportunity to contribute to RetrofitWorks’ supplier network. Our capacity for R&D, innovation, and data-analytics involving academics and students can contribute to and progress the research base.”
For more information on RetrofitWorks and how to join: http://retrofitworks.co.uk/