Time to think differently about energy

February 13th, 2013 by Sustainable Witney Leave a reply »

When the power station Didcot A closes down in 2015, what do we replace it with? Another giant belching chimney? Perhaps a nuclear power station that takes years to build?

Didcot A currently supplies half of Oxfordshire’s energy needs, and even the most idealistic greenie knows that it’s a tough call to replace that output from a renewable source in the time available, whatever technology you choose.

It’s time to think differently about energy. And that’s how the People’s Power Station was born.

The People’s Power Station isn’t about replacing Didcot A with one big renewable source. It’s becoming increasingly clear to experts in the field that there’s no single magic solution to our energy needs; the answer has to involve a mix. That’s where the first half of the People’s Power Station comes in: Powering Up. It’s about a number of different renewables projects, spread all over the county, run by different community groups.

At a Community Energy evening, run by the Low Carbon Hub and CAG Oxfordshire on 15th January, we heard from various people involved in Powering Up.

Powering Up

Barbara Hammond of the Low Carbon Hub said that the Hub has a European grant of £1.2 million to mobilise £15 million of investment over the next few years: that’s some powerful financial backing for local projects.

Sam Clarke from Low Carbon Oxford North shared the story of a solar project at Cherwell School. This was paid for by investors for the community. Sam named three factors he thought were encouraging to investors:

  • the community nature of the project
  • widespread support for green energy
  • the fact that many of the shareholders had actually attended the school as children, so felt a link to it.

They surveyed the community and used contacts made during the survey phase to find shareholders. The key was constantly following up interest and contacts.Sign saying

Julia Patrick from the Low Carbon Hub spoke on the more technical details of financing community energy projects through a community share offer. She told us that most community energy groups are set up as industrial provident societies, which means co-ops or community benefit societies. If you’re a community benefit society, the Financial Services Authority exempts you from a lot of the red tape normally involved in a share offer, so it’s easier and cheaper to raise money.

Julia added that sponsoring bodies can help volunteers with the paperwork. Possible sources of help include Wessex Community Assets and Co-operatives UK.

She ended with some advice on putting together a share offer document:

  • Have a story, a compelling narrative that tells people why they should invest
  • Make your message clear
  • Keep things robust and evidence-based: no wild claims
  • Get a lawyer to go through it for you

For more information on community enterprises and share offers, check out Julia’s series of blog posts on this topic.

Three women standing in a rowPowering Down

The other side of the coin is that it’s a lot easier to meet our energy need with community projects if that need can be reduced. That’s where Powering Down comes in, the other half of the People’s Power Station project.

We heard from Ian Bacon of the Blewbury Energy Initiative about their goal to reduce the carbon footprint of the village buildings. This award-winning project has been going since 2005, helping householders to reduce their energy use and raising awareness of energy issues.

Ewan Judge of the Energy Saving Co-operative spoke about the Green Deal, which he described as a “major step forward” in encouraging people to retrofit the UK’s housing stock to be more energy efficient.

Saskia Huggins of Low Carbon West Oxford talked about carbon calculators and personal action plans.

Also speaking on Powering Down was Moira Dorey, who told a cautionary tale about how miscommunication can lead to wasted power in shared buildings. Her blog posts on community buildings can be found in the Powering Down section of the Low Carbon Hub site.

The Powering Down section of the evening was perhaps of most relevance to the Sustainable Witney people attending the evening, because it ties in with what we’ve already been doing. Our thermal imaging work is all about helping householders to see where they’re wasting energy so they can do something about it. Sustainable Blewbury have already trodden this path and shown that when energy advice is presented visually and tailored to the individual (or individual property), people find it much easier to act on. So that’s what our four-person thermal imaging team have been focusing on over the winter, and we hope to inspire lots of Witney residents to take energy-saving action. casino online canada

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2 comments

  1. Kevin says:

    Are individual households with solar pv to be included in the powering up register for the People’s Power Station?

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