Last weekend several members of the CREW team attended the Community Energy Conference 2015. Unsurprisingly the FiTs reduction dominated discussions, but CREW left with plenty of optimism too.
Hosted by Community Energy England and Co-operative Energy, the conference was an opportunity for over 50 different groups and co-ops to come together to discuss the state of the sector and opportunities for innovation.
There was a lot of fear and anger in the conference hall as many community groups described the severe impact the rapid FiTs reduction would have on planned projects. The discussion helped draw into sharp focus both how successful FiTs has been in generating a pipeline of hundreds of project across the country (which is the reason given by Government for ending it sooner); and how devastating the announcement will be as group after group explained that they were expecting to ditch their pipeline of forthcoming renewable energy projects because of the cuts.
Among the many interesting talks and useful skills sharing workshops, one of the topics that sparked CREW’s interest was that of Energy Services Companies (ESCOs). ESCOs are a commercial or non-profit business providing a broad range of energy solutions including designs and implementation of energy savings projects, retrofitting, energy conservation, energy infrastructure outsourcing, power generation and energy supply.
A couple of community energy groups have set up ESCOs to deliver energy saving projects in schools and community groups in their local area. These have been primarily focused on replacing all traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs which use on average only 10% of the energy of traditional halogen bulbs and are still more efficient than most energy-saving bulbs currently in circulation.*
One successful example of this is Wey Valley Solar who is on track to help a local primary school in Harmondsworth, near Heathrow, up to 60% on their energy bills following the completion of re-fitting the school with LED lights.
This could be an interesting first step for CREW to start working with local community organisations across the borough while we wait and see what happens to viability of traditional solar projects.
CREW walked away from the conference with a strong sense that whatever happens in the face of current challenges, the creativity and commitment of community energy groups throughout the UK will find a way to bring real benefits of renewable energy to local communities. CREW is equally committed to making this happen for Wandsworth.