The Bridgend County Energy Challenge
CSE’s community engagement team identified and worked with a range of local stakeholders in order to reach residents and encourage them to take steps to reduce their energy use and make their homes more comfortable. This included:
- Attending local community events to get people talking about their energy problems – both individual and in their neighbourhoods.
- Signposting people to local support for home energy advice.
- Sending out energy saving tips and information for dissemination through community newsletters, notice boards and meetings.
- Setting up a dedicated website for the project, which held a range of useful information about home energy saving and about community energy projects in both English and Welsh.
We also set out to help a community organisation to set up their own energy project and document the process so that they could share their experiences and achievements.
Community energy projects can bring clear economic, social and environmental benefits as well as offering the potential to help those living in fuel poverty. However, it can be difficult for local energy projects to get going if volunteers don’t feel they have exactly the right skills or knowledge to begin.
We began by inviting groups to come forward with their own ideas for a local energy project and apply to CSE for two years of support to get the project up and running. The type of project, the way it would be run, and the people engaged with it would be up to the group itself.
“We want this local energy project to be genuinely empowering – something made by and for the community” said James Watt, CSE’s lead on the project at the time.
During the course of the project we worked closely with staff and volunteers at Bryngarw Park and the Awen Cultural Trust, initially discussing possible ideas (such as improvements to make the visitors centre more energy efficient; putting a solar PV array on the roof; schools engagement with energy literacy; setting up a hydro electric generation) and then working on much more detailed project planning to make some these ideas a reality.
CSE’s support included help with:
- Developing a plan, setting out the actions and milestones for the project and agreeing roles.
- Arranging visits to other community energy projects for inspiration and networking.
- Providing additional support such as resources, equipment, demonstrations, publicity, fundraising, energy advice and technical expertise.
- Encouraging open community meetings to help to engage people living in the community.
On the ground community engagement takes time and what can be achieved in an area depends a lot on the organisations already established, and there being one or two enthusiastic people able to champion an idea and take it forward. But there’s huge value in support from intermediary organisations like CSE, and of peer learning from other community organisations with successes already under their belts. The project had a lot of ups and downs but we were absolutely delighted firstly to have helped secure a small Naturesave funding award for resources to help with school visits and teach young people about renewable energy, and secondly to have supported a much larger (£500,000 Welsh Government) funding application which means that the solar PV installation and some low carbon building improvements will go ahead.
Since the project finished further funding from Bridgend County Borough Council has been secured by the park to fit additional solar panels, in line with the council’s 2030 energy strategy.
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