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.
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/