Where on Earth has 2017 gone? We’ve been so hard at work switching customers, doing energy surveys, and developing new projects, that this whole year has flashed by in an instant.

With 2018 knocking on the door, we thought what better time to take a look at the last 12 months before previewing the year ahead.

Fuel Poverty

By offering energy advice desk surgeries at foodbanks and community centres around Brighton and Hove, BHESCo have spoken to nearly 500 local residents this year – not bad for just three energy champions! As well as helping people to switch tariff and save an estimated £13,500, we have also encouraged 60 people to apply for the Warm Home Discount, reducing fuel bills by a further £8,400 in our city.

bhesco energy bill review 2017

Energy Saving Service

In 2017, BHESCo’s Energy Saving Service visited 120 homes and businesses, highlighting all the ways that people are using and wasting energy, and working with them to fix it quickly. We have developed an important relationship with London based company RetrofitWorks to help stimulate the energy efficiency market in the South East, and have been working closely with them to deliver free or subsidised energy measures to local homes as part of the Government’s ‘ECO’ programme.

Community Energy Projects

Using money that has been invested by local shareholders, BHESCo has successfully completed 16 new energy projects this year, ranging from new heating for an art gallery to off-grid solar power at a golf course. In total, BHESCo now has 37 operational energy projects in our portfolio, which we estimate reduce carbon emissions by 202 tonnes a year, and annual fuel bills by £50,000.

bhesco communitiy energy project 2017

Awards Season

During the summer, BHESCo was delighted to have been named as a finalist in ‘Green Business’ catagory of the 2017 Brighton & Hove Business Awards (the ‘BAHBAs’). Although we didn’t win, it was an honour to be named as a finalist, and demonstrates our standing as pioneers in the community. In addition, we were invited to become judges ourselves at the prestigious Sussex Life Awards, when we chose the winner of the ‘Green Company of the Year’ at a gala event at Brighton’s Hilton Metropole.

The Best Is Yet To Come…

Before it has even begun we have a whole heap of exciting new projects lined up for 2018. Whilst continuing to develop our ‘Food Waste To Communtiy Energy‘ project, we’ll also be working with a huge variety of different building types and technologies. Just a few of them include:

  • LED lighting at a children’s play centre
  • Solar PV at a coffee house and a renowned art gallery
  • New heating for a village hall
  • Energy saving lighting and windows at two local churches

As always, BHESCo will continue to develop new and innovative solutions to reduce the carbon emissions and energy bills for the local community, driving the transition away from fossil fuels and towards a sustainable future.

Like any enterprise, the more investors we have supporting us, the more good work we can do. Why not consider becoming a shareholder in our social enterprise and join BHESCo today:

The World Bank has decided to support the climate pledges made in the Paris Agreement and take radical steps to decarbonise the world by halting funding for fossil fuel industries after 2019.

This is a significant gesture that will not only help in the mitigation process to limit global warming to 2°C by the end of the century, it also gives a green light for more investment in renewable energy around the world. It might be the breakthrough we have been waiting for as it presents big opportunities to develop promising clean technologies that have suffered from a lack of investment.

World Bank

This will hopefully mean an acceleration of renewable energy projects around the globe, and the creation of many new job opportunities for communities that desperately need them. Furthermore, we will all be able to enjoy such benefits as decreased levels of pollution, cleaner air, and a healthier climate!

Another benefit of this decision is that it could help exciting new technologies become available for everyday use, such as solar panel-integrated windows or efficient energy storage systems.

We must remember that fazing out fossil fuels will not happen overnight. Polluting power stations will continue to operate for as long as they are financially viable and as long as they are supported by tax-breaks and subsidies from governments.

However, the fact that action is being taken by the World Bank, a major influential institution, brings hope that change is coming. This announcement not only sends a clear message that the days are numbered for the fossil fuel industry, but it simultaneously encourages governments and other institutions to follow suit.

Gyorgy Dallos, Greenpeace International climate campaigner, told The Guardian:

“The world’s financial institutions now need to take note and decide whether their financing is going to be part of the problem or the solution.” (2017, 12th Dec)

While there is still uncertainty ahead and a need to keep up the pressure, this news is a positive step and brings fresh wind into the energy sector.  Please support BHESCo in creating our clean energy future by becoming a member.

Sources:
http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2017/12/12/world-bank-group-announcements-at-one-planet-summit
http://www.greenmatters.com/news/2017/12/13/2dNgXr/world-bank-fuels

Some people, including political leaders, believe that environmental levies add cost to our annual energy bills, subsidising the construction of expensive wind and solar farms, making energy unaffordable for millions of people.  Sadly, these people are being mislead,  influenced by the large energy suppliers, like British Gas who recently blamed environmental taxes for their most recent price hikes.

The misinformation spoon fed to politicians by those whose interests lie in the preservation of a fossil fuel based energy industry is consumed blindly by our politicians who are overwhelmed by the amount of data that they must process to keep up to date.  The energy industry seems to be an area in which most politicians are especially uninformed, or worse, deceived.  Consumers are just concerned about rising energy prices, accepting the information given to them by energy suppliers trying to keep their customers.

The truth is that fossil fuel energy is subsidised at a much higher rate, more than two thirds higher, than renewable energy.  These subsidies are funded directly by the taxpayer, through tax credits to the shale gas exploration companies or tax breaks on investment of oil drilling and refining equipment.  Since tax breaks are not transported directly to our energy bills, they are less obvious to consumers.  Other subsidies funded by the taxpayer are embedded in departmental budgets, like the billions per year spent to maintain our nuclear power infrastructure is embedded in the budget of the department of Business and Industrial Strategy.  Direct funding of activities by the taxpayer allows for the activities to take place outside of public scrutiny.

Tax breaks for fossil fuels are funded by the taxpayer, investments in the renewable energy infrastructure that we need to ensure affordable and long lasting sources of energy for the future are funded by the bill payer.  There are many arguments that can be supported economically, that investments in renewable energy like wind and solar, pay back over the life of the energy generation because we don’t have to pay for the cost of the fuel, it is free.  The cost of the fuel incorporates the exploration cost, drilling cost transport cost of these fossilised relics we use for “cheap energy”. If the taxpayer funded our renewable energy infrastructure, by diverting less tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry and funding clean energy, our energy bills would also decline, there would be no need for ‘eco taxes’.

The truth is that for years onshore wind has been the cheapest form of energy, yet development of onshore wind generation has been discouraged by this government.  In June, 24% of the electricity in the UK was produced by solar panels.  800,000 homes have solar panels on their roofs and 200,000 have solar thermal hot water. Just recently, the price of electricity from offshore wind was trading at half the price of electricity from new nuclear power on the capacity market.  It is time to stop the distorted, misinformed news on renewable energy and to hold our politicians accountable for supporting the construction of more renewable energy in our communities.

We can work together to ensure that we have affordable heat and electricity into the future and stop listening to the propoganda on Eco Tax, or that the lights will go out without expensive new nuclear.  Battery storage is creating the reliability we need into renewable energy, eliminating the need for base load power.

Now is the time to support your local community energy group, to get behind the movement for local energy and stop accepting the highly selective news intended to manipulate public opinion coming from the media as our truth. We can create a cleaner, safer world for our children if that is what we choose to do.

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.

Keep It Local - Lewes Pound Ovesco

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.

Community Energy South Celebrate Lewes Pound

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.

Benefits of Keeping It Local

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.

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.

community owned energy england

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.

Members of Community Energy South (Members of Community Energy South)

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.

 


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