Community-based energy projects
As a consumer organisation, our historic roots are in local groups of consumers and citizens coming together to improve things for people of that particular locality (and beyond). So, the projects described below are of great interest – not just for the fact that they are local, but also because this is an area of our national life which NCF is focussing on for the coming year. Net Zero is a key component of our, our children’s and our grandchildren’s futures – a project of concern for every UK consumer. The approach described here starts in the right place – in the community and driven by trusted local people.
Wolverton Consumer Energy
Wolverton is a former railway town in Milton Keynes. The housing is very varied, with a large proportion of Victorian housing built for the railway workers. There are approximately 3,200 housing units and one of the highest levels of fuel poverty in the country. About 10 years ago local inhabitants set up Wolverton Community Energy (https://wolvertoncommunityenergy.uk) to work on energy efficiency. WCE concentrates on demonstrations of good practice, advice and guidance and recommendations of grants and support. Membership is open to all in the community: they pay a £1 membership fee and are expected to be involved from then on.
Their projects cover:
- A demonstration of energy efficiency in a Victorian home
- Training of local suppliers in the installation of solid wall insulation and local school projects to train children to learn about solid wall insulation
- Spreading information about energy efficient appliances
- Measuring changes by surveying before and after insulation
- Running shows for the community where installers bring in examples of solar panels
- Giving advice and guidance on how to make your home more energy efficient
- Helping people to decide what is possible for them to do to save energy in their homes
- Supporting the Green Deal project by carrying out a full assessment of the needs of 46 Wolverton residents, of whom 39 eventually had installations
- Running a volunteer home energy screening survey
- Helping people to understand gas and electricity bills
- Planning a Future Energy Show with trusted installers taking part.
The main feature of WCE is that it is run by local people who are trusted -and not by energy suppliers or builders with vested interests. This personal involvement is essential to the success of the project.
Another Milton Keynes community-based initiative is Milton Keynes Community Energy (http://miltonkeynescommunityenergy.co.uk). They began with a core group of locals plus a few experts and identified the focus of their activity – to make homes more energy efficient. They then accessed funding and support and designed their legal structure. The lessons they learnt were that they had to be stamina champions, that the local authority can be supportive but also frustrating and that partnerships and relationships are all important.
National organisations that can help locally
Another Milton Keynes-based energy initiative is the National Energy Foundation (http://www.nef.org.uk) which coordinates a consortium of community-led renewable energy projects and organises a super homes network all over the UK, including one in Milton Keynes.
Useful information is available from the Energy Saving Trust (https://energysavingtrust.org.uk) – its section On the Path to New Zero is particularly interesting.
What local community energy projects do YOU know about?
Milton Keynes is not unique! It’s true that we’re a relatively new town where community-based projects seem to thrive. But there is so much useful information and support of different kinds out there. Everyone, all over the country, needs to find ways to save energy, make their homes more comfortable and contribute towards Net Zero by 2050.
So, check out what’s going on in your community and decide what YOU can contribute!