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 www.forestrowenergy.com/join-us

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 forestrowenergy@gmail.com and put ‘Keep in touch with Emerson College Project’ in the subject header.

For more information on RCEF, visit www.wrap.org.uk/renewables

CES launches new Energy Tariffs with OurPower

We are very excited to announce the launch of a new local energy tariff in the South East. Community Energy South are working alongside Our Power to offer consumers competitively priced, fairer and environmentally-friendly energy.  To start with we are marketing the tariff with our members BHESCO and Energise Sussex Coast

For every switch to the new +IMPACT tariff in the South East, Community Energy South will receive a donation. This will allow local groups such as ESC and BHESCO to continue vital work tackling fuel poverty.

When we give energy advice we will always offer people the best deal in the market. However we hope that people will be interested in making a contribution to fuel poverty work as well as signing up to affordable, 100% green electricity!

Key facts about the new local energy tariff:

  • Super green, ethically sourced electricity.
  • Competitively priced – on average customers will benefit from annual savings of around £80*, compared with big six standard variable tariffs.
  • No money raised through +IMPACT will be handed to shareholders.
  • A donation to Community Energy South for every switch in the South East.

Read more and get a quote today.

Our power also offer a Fairer Energy tariff (scroll down page) which includes ‘Friendly credit’ for Pay As You Go customers.

*based on +IMPACT dual fuel rate with a consumption of 3100kwh electric and 12000kwh gas

 

Exciting news that Mongoose Energy are developing the Pogbie wind farm, and supplying power directly to OurPower and the +Impact Tariff - Read their Press release here

In one of the first deals of its kind in Scotland, an onshore wind farm has been financed with the goal of targeting fuel poverty in Scotland. The innovative deal structure for the new Pogbie wind farm brings together multiple stakeholders, including Mongoose Energy, the Renewable Energy Investment Fund (REIF) delivered by the Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scotland’s enterprise agencies, and Close Brothers Leasing. The focus and benefit of the project will be to support not-for-profit energy supplier, Our Power, in its fuel poverty alleviation aims. £13m of debt funding has been secured to allow the acquisition and development of the site.

Once finalised, Pogbie wind farm will contain 12 turbines with a total capacity of 9.6 megawatts.  Nett surpluses from the project will go towards communities that are suffering fuel poverty via Our Power, and other local causes.

Pogbie wind farm, based in East Lothian, is a collaboration between Our Power and Mongoose Energy, a company which is majority-owned by community groups and was set up in 2014 to develop and manage community energy systems.  The company will be responsible for building the turbines and associated infrastructure, with ownership transferring to a community benefit company, Our Community Energy, on completion in 2018.

Alister Steele, Chair of Our Power: “Our Power’s ambition includes securing a long-term supply of renewable energy. This innovative initiative will create the potential to not only secure local renewable energy in a cost effective way, which will help us deliver our social mission of tackling fuel poverty, but provides the potential for wider community investment in the assets.  Directly linking renewable generation and not for profit ownership to addressing fuel poverty is a really exciting breakthrough.”

Mark Kenber, CEO, Mongoose Energy: “Mongoose Energy’s mission is to drive community ownership and control of renewable energy generation to create a fair and sustainable energy system. We are delighted to be developing Pogbie wind farm which will offer local stakeholders the opportunity to invest directly in the project, contribute to addressing fuel poverty and provide tangible benefits to the local community. “

Scotland’s Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “I am delighted that the Scottish Government has played an important part in making this pioneering project happen, by providing £3.5M of funding from our Renewable Energy Investment Fund towards the capital cost of the project.  This project is pioneering in respect of being the first of its kind to be financed specifically to help not-for-profit energy supplier, Our Power, to tackle fuel poverty, but, in addition to doing so, Our Power has also committed to provide a community benefit package to the local community in East Lothian, in line with the Scottish Government’s Good Practice Principles. I congratulate Our Power, Mongoose Energy and Close Bothers Leasing for putting together such an exciting project and I wish the project team every success.”

Kerry Sharp, Director of the Scottish Investment Bank, said: “This innovative deal is a great example of how we can support initiatives that help deliver both commercial and societal benefits.  Projects like Pogbie wind farm play an important part in helping grow Scotland’s renewable energy generation capability while addressing the issue of fuel poverty.”

Chris Rodgers, Head of Energy Finance, Close Brothers Leasing: “This is an exciting deal and one that we are very proud to be a part of. The significance of getting this deal agreed in a reduced subsidy environment should not be underestimated because it sends a strong message that these sorts of agreements are still possible, and – importantly – viable.”

 

 

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.