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.
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/
15 May 2017
In the face of catastrophic climate change, we need to encourage energy efficiency and cleaner, renewable energy production, more than ever before. Unfortunately, our current government seems to be indifferent, if not intentionally hostile, to promoting this constructive, job-creating transition to a cleaner, income-generating and robust energy bill saving economy. This government is promoting funding of the destructive fossil fuel and nuclear industries. Our MPs own pension scheme invests in the fossil fuel industry for starters. While a significant minority recently backed divestment from fossil fuels, sadly the majority of MPs in government did not1.
Then there’s the promotion of the hugely unpopular hydraulic fracturing industry against the democratic will of the people2 and the attacks on onshore wind3 and solar energy4, both very popular renewable energy technologies5. These renewables, given the chance to flourish, as it did before the government started taxing and wrapping the renewable industry in red tape, can transform the UK’s energy security fears, reduce fuel poverty and meet our vital climate targets. We could have an economy that works for local, small to medium-sized businesses and domestic consumers alike, rather than an economy that benefits only the large energy corporations which still dominate over 80% of the UK’s energy market. The constant drain on the public’s finances by the UK’s large, enormously profit taking energy companies, duping the customer with over-priced energy tariffs, have serious consequences for people’s livelihoods and wellbeing.
One significant step to reducing energy bills for both domestic customers and businesses is to improve energy efficiency. According to the Office of National Statistics’ 2011 census, Brighton & Hove had the highest proportion of residents privately renting out of any town or city in England and Wales; more than 30% of households. Around 26,000 people are on the council housing waiting list and 1 in 69 people in Brighton & Hove are homeless6.
However, the incentive for private landlords to increase the energy efficiency of their properties just isn’t there. The government’s weak legislation requiring landlords to improve their properties’ energy efficiency, by achieving a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) by April 2018, isn’t helping at all. Yes, there are other regulations, which came into effect from 1st April, where a tenant can apply for consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements in privately rented properties7 under the provisions of the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) Regulations 2015. However, in the current climate of retaliatory evictions for tenants who merely ask for simple repairs, let alone applying for consent to carry out improvements, it makes this legislation appear a greenwash exercise, with no meaningful support for those threatened with homelessness8 or suffering in fuel poverty.
To make UK households truly energy efficient the government needs the EPC rating of landlords’ properties to be at least a D. This is overdue for the huge numbers of residents living in sub-standard, enormously expensive, energy inefficient properties across the country. The government could help landlords achieve warmer, more comfortable homes with incentives. With the new round of Energy Company Obligation 2 Transition (ECO2t) funding for efficient heating and insulation grants, there should be more focus on offering all those landlords’ properties with EPC band ratings below a D, more fully funded grant access9.
BHESCo is an award winning not-for-profit community energy co-operative offering an innovative PAYS (pay-as-you-save scheme) for those domestic and business customers who can’t afford to pay for the energy efficiency improvement measures up-front. The savings from their energy bills are used to pay for the installations over a period of time and the occupants or tenants feel more comfortable in a warmer home, helping to reduce their energy bills. However, to encourage uptake there needs to be more of an incentive and active promotion in all sections of our community.
Another reason for requiring a D rating, is those landlords who wish to invest in solar energy generation can do so, thus helping to stimulate the UK’s wounded solar PV industry10 and make it economically viable for landlords. To obtain the maximum Feed-In Tariff (FIT) for solar PV installations, a household must attain a minimum EPC band D rating11. However, the government also needs to realise that renewable energy is going to be the cheapest form of energy production in the near future. Onshore wind is already our cheapest source of electricity. Not to mention the benefits of secure, locally-produced energy and the dire consequences from global climate change if we don’t act now. The government’s own Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a report saying a solar project commissioned next year was predicted to cost between £62 and £84 per megawatt hour (MWh) with onshore wind coming in at £49 to £79/MWh. Compare this to the cheapest form of gas costing between £60 and £62 and £154 to £166 for a more expensive gas system12.
We need active, forward-thinking local councillors and MPs to lobby Westminster and help promote energy efficiency and renewable technology in their constituencies, especially coming up to this general election in June. The technology and capability is already here, but we need the political will to make it happen now and not when it is too late.
- Holder, May 2017: 50 MPs back fight to divest parliament pension fund of fossil fuels, Guardian, 08/05/2017, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/08/5o-mps-back-fight-divest-parliament-pension-fund-fossil-fuels?CMP=share_btn_link.
- Simple Switch, October 2016: Government Overrules Council to Allow Fracking in Lancashire, https://www.simplyswitch.com/government-overrules-council-to-allow-fracking-in-lancashire/
- 10:10, April 2017: Stop the government wrapping wind turbines in red tape, https://1010uk.org/articles/blownaway-planning
- Johnston, March 2017: Budget 2017: Solar industry facing devastating 800% tax increase, Independent, 08/03/2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/solar-industry-budget-2017-800-per-cent-tax-increase-green-renewable-energy-a7618191.html
- BEIS, May 2017: Energy & Climate Change Public Attitude Tracker – Wave 21, https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/energy-and-climate-change-public-attitude-tracking-survey-wave-21
- MAIS, May 2017: Housing Crisis: Community Solutions 2017, 11/05/2017, https://maisnetwork.net/2017/05/11/housing-crisis-community-solutions-2017/
- Residential Landlord’s Association, 2017: MINIMUM ENERGY EFFICIENCY STANDARDS, https://www.rla.org.uk/landlord/guides/minimum-energy-efficiency-standards.shtml
- Whitworth, February 2017: Revenge eviction law ‘not working’, 09/02/2017, http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/38795177/revenge-eviction-law-not-working
- NEA, Feb 2017: IN FROM THE COLD: The funding gap for non-gas fuel poor homes under ECO and a proposal to fill it.
- Solar Trade Association, August 2016: 2017 Business Rates Revaluation: Rooftop Solar PV.
- Ofgem, 2017: Feed-In Tariff (FIT) rates, https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/environmental-programmes/fit/fit-tariff-rates
- Johnston, February 2017: Government accused of trying to kill off UK solar industry before it can become cheapest form of electricity, Independent, 08/02/2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/solar-energy-uk-government-accused-trying-to-kill-off-climate-change-theresa-may-a7570161.html.
26 Apr 2017
The energy efficiency of a building is how it uses gas and electricity, with special attention on how much gets wasted. Simple improvements such as roof and wall insulation, low energy lighting, double glazed windows, and draught exclusion can greatly improve energy efficiency, meaning the building needs much less energy to heat and maintain.
The most obvious benefit is that monthly gas and electric bills go down, which can be very important for a family’s budget or a business’ profit margin. But there are many other less tangible benefits to energy efficiency that are just as important as saving money.
For example, using less energy means creating less carbon emissions, which is great for our planet and the environment. Investing in energy saving means that the UK can work towards its carbon reduction targets while still pursuing policies of economic growth. In addition, by using less energy we can improve our energy security, because we do not need to buy as much power from overseas. This can also help to keep prices down.
In fact, studies have shown that investing in energy efficiency is a great way of promoting economic growth. Not only is work provided for thousands of installers and traders, but the money saved by efficiency measures frees up more disposable income that can be channeled back into local goods and services. Moreover, the Government can expect greater tax receipts that would come from higher levels of trade and employment.
Adding energy efficiency measures to a property will also increase its value, especially if this results in an improved Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). A person’s health and wellbeing (physical and mental) is improved by living in a warmer home, which can lead to a reduced demand on the NHS and further savings to the taxpayer.
As we can see, there are so many reasons for investing in better energy efficiency it is a scandal that this is not a national infrstructure priority. It is therefore up to us to take matters into our own hands to improve the quality of the UK’s outdated and inefficient old housing stock. Not only will this improve our lives and the prosperity of our country, but it will be our legacy to future generations. Contact BHESCo to see how we can start your energy efficiency journey at no upfront cost.