Doug Parr (small pic)On Tuesday 03 June Doug Parr, Chief Scientist and Policy Director at Greenpeace UK, came to talk to a full room at the Brighthelm Centre, regarding the Future of UK Energy.

Doug began by addressing the Big Six energy companies, the dominant force that control 95% of our energy supply. This unfair monopolisation of the market prompted the foundation of BHESCo: to provide the community of Brighton and Hove with an alternative to these Big Six companies, of which two thirds are owned by foreign corporations. Doug highlighted that there is not enough Government regulation to take the control away from the Big Six and that community energy is presenting a viable alternative to their control.

Over 60% of the population support renationalisation of the sector, giving the power back to the public sector creating a more secure energy future. At BHESCo we strongly believe that social enterprise can fill this gap. In our case providing clean, renewable energy and encouraging energy efficiency as a public service.  It was estimated that at the beginning of 2014, 6.59 million households were in fuel poverty, an increase of 13% from 2011 (ACE, 2014*). These households have become victims of price increases from the Big Six, accumulating a debt to their supplier that prevents them from switching to obtain a better deal. It is these circumstances that BHESCo aims to avoid, by helping communities reduce their energy consumption, lower their bills and develop community energy projects to generate our own power.

Doug Parr said community energy has the ability to be ‘powerful, intrusive and disruptive’ to the energy market, making a major contribution to our future energy system. This is something that BHESCo has believed in since founding in 2011, underpinning our services and practices.  Barriers such as planning permissions, finances and grid connections will need to be overcome and best practice established. Community projects are a way of breaking through these barriers as local buy in and cooperation will reduce the number of planning objections. In addition to this, the buy in and support of local authorities is critical to the success of community energy projects, and so developing relationships with these will only strengthen project development.

Doug highlighted that UK polls show that the population favours renewable energy sources, with solar power being the most favoured, over coal, oil and gas. However this preference is not reflected in energy policy or the strategy for building a sustainable energy industry. This is hardly surprising, as there is a multitude of research on the environmental attitude-behaviour gap which shows that although many people have environmental opinions, they do not act upon them. It is important to not see this as doom and gloom, there are many groups of people across the country striving towards a more sustainable society, with community led renewable energy projects developing clean, renewable energy for thousands of households across the country

“We can learn from Europe”, Doug said as he talked us through an example in Copenhagen, where a variety of energy sources provide the city’s power. Of these sources a significant amount are renewable. In Germany community energy generation has taken off, with 42% of its renewable energy capacity owned by individuals. Doug highlighted these places as best practice and urged us not to get left behind; we should look toward these countries to build a picture of what the future of UK energy could look like.

Amidst this, Doug touched on the process of fracking. BHESCo has covered this topic in blogs before highlighting that it is uneconomical, unnecessary and unclean (, all of which Doug agreed are legitimate concerns. However, as Doug warned the announcement of the ‘fracking law’ in the Queens speech on 04 June, has made the Governments intention to frack across the UK more definite. The changes in land regulations will allow companies to frack under homes of those who currently object, without permission and understanding the dangers of the practice.

Our efforts should be focussed on finding alternatives to fossil fuels, developing community energy and producing local power. Overall Doug was very inspirational and it reminded us all in the audience why we are striving towards the goal of community generated renewable energy.

We discussed Doug’s talk and the power of community energy on our radio show, with our guest, Geoff Barnard, Coordinator of Steyning 1010 & Brighthelm Centre Trustee. Please visit the Radio Free Brighton webpage to listen to the show.


ollie2BHESCo Communications and Communities Director, Ollie Pendered, has been appointed to lead the Customer Services sub-group of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), working group on community energy grid connections. Ollie’s role is to represent community groups that work with the distribution network operators (DNO) in setting up connections for local or community renewable energy generation systems. DNOs are encouraged by the Incentive on Connections Engagement (ICE) to engage with stakeholders to agree connection targets. Despite this, connections still take too long and are too costly.

Ollie will also take a lead role in understanding customer service issues related to the development  of community energy grid connections. The  working group  focusses on identifying current issuses and barriers faced by community energy projects. The group and its members identify parties and forums suitable for raising issues and advancing the aims of the working group. By doing this the working group will highlight actions and present recommendations to the Secretary of State  for advancing community energy projects. The working group subs groups  focus on areas including connection costs, capacity and investment policy and demand flexibility and storage.

Community energy projects present opportunities for individuals to be part of self sufficient communities, generating power through efficient, sustainable technologies. To find out more about community energy projects visit the BHESCo website, read the DECC Guidance on Community Energy or contact us.

Brace yourself, there’s another £17 billion in national spending cuts predicted for this year.

Half of the cuts will be to bnuclear power plant and housesenefits, like the National Health Service.  This government has been relentless in pursuing its agenda of protecting their ideology at the cost of poor and vulnerable people, especially the elderly.   The Treasury introduced a budget that reduced corporate taxes, increased the personal allowance, costing the Treasury millions while cutting back benefits to offset the impact of their ideology on our national debt.  Our deficit has reached a serious state of concern, now ballooning to £1.2 trillion, three quarters of the size of the UK economy.  This might help to explain why fracking is so alluring to the people who control our energy policy – we need a source of income to boost the UK economy.  

The clean tech industry is consistently the fastest growing sector in the world.  Insufficient investment and policy turnarounds have badly impacted the UK’s low carbon industry, culminating in an attack on vulnerable people by stopping the Energy Company Obligation in March 2014.  Our Energy Policy has been broken for many years.  It’s time to start fixing it.

People with lesser means are still being fleeced by the Big Six energy suppliers.  Six million households in the UK are on key meters.  Five million households are in debt to their energy supplier, meaning that they are held captive and cannot switch.  Studies conducted by BHESCo in Brighton & Hove, have determined that people pay 20 – 40% more for their electricity and gas on prepayment or “key“ meters.  In winter, this means that people with key meters may run out of heat or electricity and not have the money to get the heating or lights turned back on.   Increasing more people across the city must make a decision whether to heat or eat.  Last year, 31,000 people died in the UK from the cold.  According to Age UK, 90% of these deaths were in people over 65 years old.  For the state not to provide for our  elderly and vulnerable people is a lamentable turn of events.  Considering the progress we’ve made in technology, our social services are evolving to Dickensian conditions.

67% of the British population would like the failed privatisation of 1993 reversed, to re-nationalise the energy industry.   Unfortunately, this is more a dream, disappointingly, a likely impossibility.   With a combined value well into the 100s of billions of pounds, the cost to the Treasury of reacquiring the energy suppliers and national grid would be too great to inspire political will.  We can also assume that since taxpayer funds have been spent on bailing out the banks, we do not have the economic capacity to buy back national assets we once owned.

Yesterday, the Department of Energy and Climate change released their Community Energy Strategy.  This report pledged support for community energy groups across the country.  BHESCo will continue to work with Brighton & Hove City Council to drive down the cost of energy locally, investing in the local community.  We expect that any support that we receive will create value for money for the taxpayer, delivering a low cost transition to a low carbon economy for less investment per kWh of energy generated or saved.

That is why Co-operative energy groups are so important.  Groups managed by social entrepreneurs are picking up gauntlet to remedy a failed energy industry.  20 years experience has been enough time for us to recognise that the model didn’t work and its time to consider attractive alternatives.  Show your support for community energy by joining BHESCo.  Call us or write to us.  Get in touch, we are here to help.

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