Solar project drop-in event this Wednesday with South Western Railway & Riding Sunbeams

South Western Railway (SWR), in collaboration with Riding Sunbeams, is hosting a public drop-in event for an exciting new pilot solar panel energy project.

Hosted at Aldershot station on Wednesday 17 July, between 8am-6pm, the event is a chance for members of the public to find out more about the scheme to power trains through connecting solar panels directly into the railway system as traction current, without first distributing it to the grid.

For more information click HERE

OVESCo Sunny solar Schools Share Offer

OVESCO Sunny Solar Schools (OSSS) have already successfully supported local generation of renewable energy having installed solar panels on the roofs of schools in Sussex. Previously OSSS has raised enough funds to complete the installation of 60kW of solar panels at King’s Academy Ringmer (an additional 30kW) and St John’s College, Brighton (30kW). Following this success, this second share offer aims to raise a minimum of £158,000 to install 140kW solar PV panels on at least five additional schools. OVESCO has pre-registered 16 Sussex schools to be eligible for the Government’s feed-in tariff1 . This gives us time to conduct feasibility studies, which will allow further schools to be included in the share offer, if they prove to be viable, increasing the investment needed.

For more information click HERE

New Solar projects for BHESCo

This Summer, BHESCo have partnered with EcoSphere Renewables to install a 49kW solar array at the college. It is expected that this system will generate 51,660kWh of renewable electricity each year, which will reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions from Varndean College by 37 tonnes.

You can find details of the latest share offer HERE

Maid Energy Launch Share Offer

Maid energy have launched their latest share offer!

share offer launched on Tuesday 18 June!

Maid Energy have registered 10 new sites and are seeking £350,000 of investment to install solar on them all. The minimum investment is only £100 to enable as many people as possible to be part of it. they aim to pay 5% interest for 20 years, as well as returning investors’ capital by the end of that time.

The closing date is 22 July, or when £350,000 is reached, whichever is sooner.

You can find details HERE

Leapfrog Finance funds first Council-supply solar farm, creating community benefit funds

Gridserve and Warrington Borough Council (WBC) have today announced that they have completed the funding of a landmark solar deal which will make Warrington the first local authority to produce all its own electricity from clean energy. 

Leapfrog Finance is proud to be providing £11m finance to this initiative which will save the Council millions each year in energy costs that can be re-invested in providing local services.

Leapfrog Finance’s Project Finance Transaction Manager, Matt Andrews, noted, “Leapfrog’s involvement in this project has converted what would otherwise be a commercial deal into social impact investment”.

Claire Hanratty, Leapfrog Finance’s CEO, stated that it is the impact of this reinvestment of savings in community services alongside the creation of a community benefit fund worth £2.25m which will help to address social outcomes like fuel poverty in the local area is what excited her team about this deal. Gridserve is also contributing £100,000 to the fund.

Ms Hanratty said, “The openness of the Council and Gridserve to investing surpluses into this fund is another landmark element of this deal and one all the parties should be justifiably proud of”.

Regional State of the Sector report launched

Together with Community Energy England, UK power networks, and supported by Community Energy East and Community Energy London, the first ever regional State of the Sector survey was conducted. This was a survey of Community Energy groups in London, the East, South, and South East of England to understand more about their needs and aspirations from industry and future energy networks.

The report was launched at a Parliamentary reception hosted by Amber Rudd MP, and details the results of the data gathered from the survey. It will be used to foster an improved understanding of the current state and future of the community energy sector in these regions.

31 organisations took part, and we would like to thank them for taking the time to complete this survey.

You can see the survey HERE

Green Alliance Community Energy Manifesto

The UK government is consulting on the design of the future energy system, to determine new rules and regulations around how we buy, sell and manage our energy. It is vital that the voices of community energy groups are heard and that the value they can bring is fully considered in these plans.  The Green Alliance launched their Manifesto in parliament on 25th February, supported by twenty community energy and affiliated groups, including Community Energy England, Community Energy South, 1010, Energise Sussex Coast, Regen, Co-operative Energy and a number of impact investors from across the UK

More details can be found HERE

CES launches its new Social Medial Toolbox

How do you approach your social media? Could you do with a refresher or an easy to read manual on how to do it for Community Energy Groups?

Community Energy South is always finding ways of supporting our community energy groups and helping it get one step ahead! Our ‘Social Media Toolbox’ forms part of our marketing hub. The toolbox is available to help the Community Energy Groups establish their Facebook and Social Media strategies. 

Thanks to The Naturesave Trust, and LoCASE who gave us grants to help facilitate the development of the Hub.

For the development of the social media strategy, we worked with local guru Lisa Bullen, a qualified Social Media Manager, she says:

‘I was delighted to be approached by Community Energy South earlier this summer to write a simple "Tool Kit to Social Media" concentrating on Twitter and Facebook. I have first hand experience of Community Energy via the installation of solar panels at The Secret Campsite Lewes barn roof a few years ago !  

I am a qualified Social Media Manager with 20 + years in client sales, new business growth, event launches and magazines. Previous employers include ELLE magazine, Sunday Times, BBC Children in Need Car Fest and The International Wine Challenge. I am trained in delivering targeted,effective social media content that is 100% relevant to the target audience and is platform specific.  

In putting together this tool kit I would like to thank the teams at BHESCo, OVESCo and Energise Sussex Coast who I interviewed on their amazing content and techniques, you can find lots of great examples in the toolkit.’

Lisa offers 1-2-1 coaching for any individuals looking to increase their knowledge and skill with utilising social media as part of a marketing strategy. 

If you would like further info then get in touch with the CES team on 01273 472405

You can see the toolkit HERE

BHESCo wins 'Green Company of The Year' award at the BAHBA's

Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-op (BHESCo) were the envy of the sustainability community when they picked up Green Business of the Year award at the 2018 Brighton & Hove Business Awards (the ‘BAHBA’s’). 

The gala event was held at the Hilton Metropole and was attended by 400 representatives from the Brighton community, including East Brighton MP Lloyd Russell Moyle and local legend Fatboy Slim.

You can read the full blog HERE


OVESCo and Sunny Solar Schools Launches Share Offer

OVESCO Sunny Solar Schools for East Sussex

Lewes based award-winning not for profit community energy company launches its third share offer for £140,000 and our local schools will see the benefit.

The Community Share Offer launched on Sunday 15th July at the Linklater Pavilion in Lewes and will close on Friday 24th August.

The share offer is being offered by OVESCO Sunny Solar Schools, a not-for-profit community benefit society.  OVESCO is celebrating their 10th year of developing community owned renewable energy in Sussex and working with local schools.  Director of OVESCO Sunny Solar Schools Chris Rowland explained “We are looking to install community owned solar panels on three schools in East Sussex in this first phase. We’ve been working for the last six months preparing the project and have kicked it off by installing the first 30kW solar array of 110 PV panels at Kings Academy Ringmer. We plan to install 60kW of solar PV panels at St John’s Seaford and St John’s Brighton with an additional 37kW of solar hot water for their swimming pool.” 

The OVESCO Sunny Solar Schools team continues to work with schools interested in installing solar panels on their school.  We invite interested schools to contact us at .  As additional schools become viable we will launch additional share offers.

For every share you purchase, you will help East Sussex based schools, reduce the school’s annual energy bills and reduce about 9 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per school per year; whilst inspiring our next generation of children to be part of a sustainable future.

The OVESCO share offer is the third share launch in their 10 year history and aims to raise over £140,000 of local community investment.   Shareholders can expect a 4% return after an initial set up period with their money back within the 25 year lifetime of the offer. OVESCO Sunny Solar Schools Director Patrick Crawford added “We are really keen to first offer shares to our local communities where the schools are located. Many of our existing shareholders invest on behalf of their children or grandchildren. The shares are a positive investment for many reasons as well as combating climate change and supporting a low carbon future.’

Please see the full Community Share Offer Document on

Forest Row Energy, BHESCo and Emerson College celebrate renewable energy funding success.

Forest Row Energy and their new partners Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCo) and Emerson College are celebrating their successful funding award from the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF). The £20,000 award will be used to fund a renewable energy feasibility study at the College.

The study, which will be managed by Forest Row Energy and delivered in partnership with BHESCo and technical experts from Rina Consulting, will investigate the feasibility of a campus wide renewable energy network for Emerson College. It will focus on reducing oil consumption for space and hot water heating and also on producing energy for electricity.

The technologies that will be investigated will include district heating that utilises a central biomass boiler with a heat network to supply buildings with heat and hot water, ground source heat pumpssolar photovoltaics and solar thermal.

The study will include consultation with everyone that is connected with the College and anyone from the wider community who is interested in the project. The consultation will explain the options that are being looked at and make sure that feedback and comments are consideredThe study will also include the development of a funding plan for any technologies that are found to be feasible. 

Esmé Michelle Wild, Director of Funding and Project said ‘This is an exciting project that will look to benefit the college, the wider community and reduce our local carbon footprint. It will develop the local community, renewable energy sector that puts the power of energy back into the hands of local people.

The plan is to create a local educational resource that demonstrates community energy generation and renewable energy technologies particularly in rural areas that are not connected to mains gas.’ 

If you are interested in this project and would like to support the community energy movement in Forest Row and the surrounding towns and villages, please consider becoming a member of Forest Row Energy. Find out more at

If you would like to keep up to date with the project and receive an invitation to consultation events as part of the Emerson College project please email and put ‘Keep in touch with Emerson College Project’ in the subject header.

For more information on RCEF, visit

Read CES director Colin Nolden's brilliant blog post

Challenges and opportunities for community energy

Community energy in the UK is undergoing rapid change. With government underwritten feed-in tariffs (FITs) coming to an end in April 2019the dominant current business model, relying on FITs as a source of revenue, is no longer viable. New business models need to derive sufficient revenue from the sale of energy through Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) contracts for project sustainability.

The reliance on long term, usually 20-year PPA contracts, is challenging for both community energy groups and potential clients. Few organisations work with a planning horizon that exceeds 5 years. Even the public sector, which naturally lends itself to long-term contracts, may have reservations about entering such PPA contracts. Examples from schools point towards the difficulty of honouring these contracts because some decisions, for example to renovate or rebuild a school building which involves alteration of roof area designated for solar PV systems, might be taken by a different authority to one which signs the contract.

The need for technical, legal, financial and administrative expertise to engage with this complexity and uncertainty increases the transaction costs of negotiating PPA contracts. The higher the transaction costs, the lower the viability of PPA contracts. In the language of Transaction Cost Economics (TCE), transaction costs comprise search costs (for community energy groups to find a suitable client), bargaining costs (for negotiating legally-compliant PPA contracts), and opportunism costs (arising out of information asymmetry between client and community energy group).

Community energy framework agreements (CEFAs) might help overcome these challenges. Similar to procurement frameworks for energy service contracts, CEFAs combine a legal framework as part of the PPA contract with an organisation acting as an intermediary between community energy groups and clients. Through networking and promotional activities, access to funding sources, potential clients and relevant expertise is increased. Community Energy South (CES) is developing CEFAs to help its members sustain their commitment to developing community energy projects. 


As an umbrella organisation and regional hub, CES already acts as an intermediary facilitating the interlinking of its member groups (community energy developers) with clients to develop financially viable PPA contract business cases post FIT. Within a CEFA, CES takes on the role of a programme manager while individual community energy groups act as project managers. CEFAs allow member groups to develop projects directly with a client or with the client providing space for community energy projects.

One example of an emerging CEFA is CES’ involvement in the Renewable Traction Project along with 10:10 and Imperial College London. This project makes use of the fact that solar PV supplies electricity as direct current using a similar voltage to the Southern rail network of 750V DC. Connecting community solar PV projects directly to the electrified rail network will open many sites for development without the need to connect to the electricity grid, especially given access issues due to grid constraints.

Network Rail represents an ideal partner with the energy demand which allows it to purchase all the electricity from appropriate solar PV developments, potentially in combination with batteries to match high demand during commuting hours with stored energy. Negotiating PPA contracts with other clients might not benefit from such fortunate circumstances as such contracts are currently only relevant to clients with high daytime energy use and a 20-year planning horizon. 

Other potential partners for CEFAs include water and gas companies. These organisations tend to have many sites in rural locations with continuous energy demand. Electric mobility service providers may also emerge as potential partners. Vehicle battery charging or changing points at service stations, for example, are likely to increase electricity demand. A share of this demand may be covered by community energy projects and CEFAs can help reduce the transaction costs between the different actors.

The role of distributed ledger technologies such as blockchain promise some interesting developments both in relation to peer-to-peer (P2P) trading and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) connections for electric mobility. Community energy is well placed to benefit from such innovations given the distributed nature of these technologies and sector as such. 

These examples indicate the emergence of an energy-mobility-water-ICT nexus with community energy and CEFAs in particular at the forefront of innovation.


This blog post has been prepared by Colin Nolden. Colin is a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Bristol Law School. He currently researches the governance of distributed ledger technologies and blockchain for energy and climate services in the context of sustainable city business models.

In 10 years time, trains could be solar powered - Alice Bell, Guardian correspondant

Last week, my 10:10 colleague Leo Murray co-authored a new report on solar-powered trains with Nathaniel Bottrell, an electrical engineer at Imperial College.

It’s exciting stuff. We think solar could power 20% of the Merseyrail network in Liverpool, as well as 15% of commuter routes in Kent, Sussex and Wessex. There’s scope for solar trams in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, London and Manchester too, and there’s no reason it should just be a British thing either. We’re especially excited about possibilities in San Francisco, Mexico City, India and Spain, but trains and trams all over the world could be running on sun in a few years time.

It’s also a genuine world first. There are a few solar stations – Blackfriars Bridge being by far the coolest – and some trains in India even have solar panels on their roofs, but that’s just to power equipment like lights and fans. No one’s moving the trains themselves with solar. Yet.

What’s especially interesting is how our new innovation came about – in particular the role community energy groups have played in its development (often despite policy support, not because of it, or in response to policy constraints). Looking ahead, there are also important questions to be asked about what role these community groups might play in its deployment.

The idea came from a community solar group in Balcombe, West Sussex, formed in response to the first anti-fracking protests in the UK, in the summer of 2013. After the drillers, the activists, the press and various other hangers-on had left, the villagers were left with a question our current energy system lets most of us ignore: how should we power ourselves?

They decided they wanted local, community-owned energy, and also that they wanted to go solar. Looking into places to site a solar farm, they initially found the local grid didn’t have the capacity to take more solar. Searching for a way to solve that problem, they looked at the local railway and asked an engineering professor who happened to live locally, “could we plug it there, instead?” His answer was yes, they could, but the technical challenges to get there were a bit too much for a small-scale community group to grapple with. So they found another nearby solar site that could plug into the grid.

But when solar cuts hit the UK in 2015, we dug out the idea. What had been a possible local solution to Balcombe’s grid capacity issues a while back could build into a larger opportunity for renewable energy everywhere. Community energy shouldn’t have had to innovate at that point – renewable energy tech’s pretty great as it is – but with the solar cuts so deep, and onshore wind effectively banned in England, the solar trains idea gave us options. So 10:10 teamed up Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College London, umbrella group Community Energy South, and electrical engineering specialists Turbo Power Systems to find out more under Innovate UK’s Energy Game Changers competition.

Looking ahead, it will be a few years yet before we’re able to deploy the tech necessary to plug solar into trains. It needs building, and it needs testing, but I’d be shocked if it doesn’t happen. What’s less clear is whether community groups will be involved as solar railways roll out. As they’ve been part of this from the get-go, they’re super-keen. But it’s all too easy for the public to be shunted to the sidelines when the big budgets and complexity of infrastructure projects get going.

It’s common for public involvement to be seen as an inefficiency – in science, politics, finance, technology and more – a “nice to have” that takes too much time and effort when we’re in the serious business of things like climate change, economics and keeping the trains running on time.

But the opposite is true, especially when it comes to climate action. It’s the public who are driving change, often despite the actions of policy-makers.

Community energy offers a particularly powerful way to give members of the public a role in decarbonisation. Moreover, by tapping into their energy, enthusiasm and ability to bring other members of the public with them, we’ll get it done faster, as well as fairer. If it wasn’t for community energy groups coming up with this idea, pushing it forward and scoping out the places it could be utilised, solar trains would still be far more than a few years away.

Alice Bell was a founder member of the Political Science blog. Previously an academic in science communication and policy studies, she is now co-director at climate change charity, 10:10.

Imperial Research finds that electric railways could be powered by subsidy free solar!

A new report shows that solar panels connected directly to railways in the UK could meet a significant amount of their electricity demand.

The authors of a report from Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab and the climate change charity 10:10 have found that electric railways could be powered by subsidy-free solar power. The team have been investigating the potential to connect solar panels directly to the substations that provide power to the rail system. This system would use custom power electronics and bypass the electricity grid altogether.


The renewable traction power project found that solar arrays and integrated energy storage devices could supply around 10% of the energy needed to power trains on the UK’s DC electrified routes each year. Crucially, the research found that this clean, renewable power could be supplied at a lower cost than electricity supplied via the grid today.

“I believe that decarbonising our transport sector is key to meeting the UK’s climate targets. The renewable Traction Power project demonstrates that we can harness solar to help make this a reality for our train network,” Professor Tim Green, Director of Energy Futures Lab and academic lead on the project, “This project also demonstrates that the best way to tackle many of the issues we face is through collaboration and leveraging expertise from a wide range of partners.”

The biggest opportunity identified in the study is on the commuter rail network south of London. If 200 small solar farms were installed alongside railway lines they could provide 15% of the power needed to run trains on these routes. An analysis by project partners, Community Energy South, indicates that there are actually around 400 sites that could be suitable for solar traction projects in the region. 

Forest Row Energy wins a Community Energy Award from M&S!

After much hard work and with fantastic support and partnerships within our amazing community, Forest Row Energy Co-op are thrilled to have been announced today as one of the 'Judges Winners' in this year's M&S Community Energy Fund. The solar installation with battery storage at Forest Row’s Community Centre will now go ahead fully funded and the community energy movement in the area will take a big step forward.

Esmé Michelle Wild, Director of Funding and Projects at Forest Row Energy said ‘We are absolutely over the moon that the judges have recognised all our hard work.  Winning this award means that we will now not only be able to move forward with this project but that we will be able to take the community energy movement in the region to the next level.

As part of the project we have the developed skills, partnerships and project management processes that will allow us to attract further funding and be ready to go on a whole range of other renewable energy projects in and around Forest Row. Today we are a big step closer to achieving our vision for local renewable energy – to power our community by clean, green renewable energy and become self-sufficient in our energy needs.’

This project has been in the making for around 2 years. Along the way Forest Row Energy Co-op have been successful in partnering with Forest Row Parish Council to gain planning permission for the solar installation on the Grade II listed community centre, engaging local business, inspiring Powervault to provide free battery storage worth £6,000 as part of the project and gaining the votes of over 1250 supporters in Forest Row and further afield as part of the M&S community energy competition.

The solar installation on the Forest Row Community Centre will power the preparation of sustainable meals for local people, community services such as the local library and free electric car charging. The installation will produce enough power for around 7,000 community meals or for 580 car charges each year at the electric car charging point.

The battery storage that will be donated by Powervault will mean that energy generated from the solar panels will be stored and used directly, rather than being exported to the grid and then bought back at a higher price.

The M&S judges said that the project was ‘One of the most innovative projects to feature in this year’s competition, Forest Row’s vision to power a community through local energy production and create a self-sufficient energy movement was extremely popular with the judges. As community energy initiatives continue to grow, the judges felt that Forest Row’s ambition to develop a resource that helps other community energy projects, beyond their own, was highly commendable and deserved to be recognised.’

We are now exited to be making plans to get the installation up and running in January 2018 and about making next steps to create positive change, sustainability and energy self-sufficiency in the community. A big thank you to everyone that has helped, supported and voted for this project.