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.

 

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/

On Thursday 1st June 2017, US President Donald Trump proceeded to do what everybody knew he was going to do and announced that he was pulling the USA out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The agreement was made in December 2015 and brought together 195 nations from around the world to create a united response to the threat of global warming. Given his history of describing climate change as a hoax created by and for the Chinese, it was widely expected that the Trump administration would reverse the sustainability actions put in place by Barack Obama in favour of policies promoting fracking, coal, and oil,  industries in which he has considerable investments.

And that’s exactly what he did.

However, what at first may appear to be a catastrophe for the climate movement may in fact prove to be a catalyst.

There has been magnificent response from America’s states, defying their President’s agenda and declaring their intention to build a sustainable future despite Trump’s decree.

In the days following Trump’s announcement, over 246 city mayors signed a joint statement pledging to “honour and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement”. Together, city and state officials have committed to reduce emissions by more than one gigatonne of carbon-dioxide by 2030 — the same amount pledged by the US in the Paris Agreement. Commenting on these developments, former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg said:

“The fact of the matter is, Americans don’t need Washington to meet our Paris commitment, and Americans are not going to let Washington stand in the way of fulfilling it”.

It seems that Trump has misjudged the mood of his people, and unwillingly ushered in an newly invigorated spirit of environmental determinism. As one reporter from CNBC writes:

“The Trump presidency marks a new era. As citizens and business leaders, it is now up to us to take the future into our own hands and create the change we want to see”.

And it’s not just Americans who have beeen vocal about a renewed fever of climate activism. The day after Trump’s retraction, China, India and Europe repeated their commitment to save the future of our planet. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said:

“To everyone for whom the future of our planet is important, I say let’s continue going down this path so we’re successful for our Mother Earth.”

In fact, one of the only global leaders not to decry the actions of the U.S. president was the UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Very little was said about the threat of climate change during the recent election campaign, the topic receiving minimal attention from mainstream politicians and media alike.

That’s why we must follow the example of American environmentalists and unite locally to set our own emissions targets and carve our own path to a sustainable future. We cannot rely on leadership from above.

There are many examples of community energy projects across the UK, with at least five thousand community groups undertaking energy initiatives in the last five years, all motivated by a desire to develop locally owned low carbon energy solutions.

We’re in the middle of a seismic shift in the way we produce and consume energy, with the impetus coming from grassroots communities. The change is unstoppable, whatever President Donald Trump and other backwards looking politicians think.

Be a part of the energy revolution. Find your nearest communtiy energy group and get involved today.
 

Copyright 2017 BHESCo