Community Energy Challenge

Meet the groups that could change the profile of the community energy sector

3 July 2012

Seven community groups across the UK received a huge boost to their plans to develop sustainable energy projects when in June they were named winners of the Community Energy Challenge, a competition initiated by The Co-operative.

What each group has won is the chance to turn its idea for local, renewable energy generation into a technically robust, financially sound and locally supported proposal that is ‘investment ready’. This will be done through 12-18 months of valuable enterprise development and support, most of which will be provided by CSE.

The seven successful groups are:

Brendon Energy, who will be working with local people to find the best site, or sites, for a small number of medium-sized wind turbines in the ten parishes around Wiveliscombe in Somerset.

The Abergwyngregyn Regeneration Company, a community group that is partnering with the National Trust to investigate a hydro project on the Anafon River in Gwynydd.

Towards Zero Carbon Bute, which aims to explore and develop community-owned energy projects on the island, and to give people a say in the generation of energy locally while delivering wider social and environmental benefits.

Sustainable Oakenshaw in Co Durham, who are looking for the widest community participation possible in their efforts to create a community-owned renewable energy project that would bring an income to the local community so they can further invest in improving the area.

Transition Belper, who want to explore and develop community-owned and run hydro power projects in the Derwent Valley world heritage corridor between Cromford and Derby.

Wey Valley Woodfuel is a Surrey-based community group which is keen to explore an energy project that raises money through community share issues to install biomass boilers and generate free heat energy for community spaces such as schools, churches and leisure centres.

M40 Chilterns Environmental Group, who have proposed an innovative scheme to tackle noise on a 20 mile section of the M40 and generate energy through use of photovoltaic-enabled noise barriers.

The seven successful groups were chosen from among 124 who applied. You can read more about the rigorous three-stage selection and interview process here.

The Community Energy Challenge was designed to identify and support ‘replicable community energy schemes that demonstrate a range of technologies and the benefits of community ownership’. And size mattered, too, with the focus firmly on projects of a significant scale, originally defined as between £1m and £3m in value and/or rated in excess of 500kW, though some of the chosen initiatives are smaller than this. In other words, the Community Energy Challenge is looking for ‘game-changers’, a set of projects that will change the profile of community-based energy schemes for good.

Martin Holley is CSE’s project manager.

“We’re looking forward to adding our technical know-how along with our expertise in project planning, community facilitation and enterprise development to some well thought-through and exciting projects.

“We’ll also be in a position to provide targeted assistance for key costs at the project development phase, such as legal fees, planning fees, ecological monitoring and site analysis.”

CSE’s support for these groups has already begun and will run until the end of 2013. Some of the project proposals are embryonic, but others are relatively advanced. In all cases, however, the selection panel believes that with CSE’s input the seven projects could be ‘good to go’ by the end of the 18 month period.

For more information, see the project profile.


 Photo:  www.gehrlicher.com 

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