Project Consultancy, Land and Social Enterprise Support

Community Engagement for Community Energy

Today I have started in a new role as Community Engagement Project Officer for Avalon Community Energy Cooperative – quite a mouthful, I know! Thankfully, the Cooperative are also known as ACE, which makes this blog a lot easier to write from this point forward!

My role is to support the development of ACE through building its membership, gathering evidence of support for renewable energy in the local area, building the co-ops online presence across social networks and on its own website. Its an interesting and challenging role to start the new year and I look forward to helping make ACE a great success.

ACE are currently looking for sites across the Wells/Glastonbury/Street/Shepton Mallet area of Somerset, commonly known – to differing levels of agreement – as Avalon. You might call it West Mendips and the Associated Islands. The Cooperative are well progressed in their search for industrial and community-building rooftops on which to plonk community funded and community beneficial renewable energy arrays. They are talking to local businesses and other building owners who may have an interest in the obvious benefits of rooftop solar.

As part of the process of getting this work contract, I was asked to present a 5 minute presentation on the benefits of Rooftop Solar. It was fun putting it together and the Cooperative will now, it seems, be using the same presentation in their own work approaching building owners, for1011-019 which I’m very pleased. Doing the research for this mini project was fascinating and only convinced me further of the absolute benefits of large-scale rooftop solar systems WHERE (and this is the crucial part) the benefits of such systems are shared amongst the community as a whole.

Having been phoned regularly by various solar installation firms since moving house in March last year, the whole solar industry feels like it has been corrupted to serve the rampant needs of moral-free companies who have little or no consideration for the building owners to whom they are proposing their ‘free’ installs. The feeling I get from these calls has gradually degenerated from excitement that I finally have a roof of my/our own (to some degree) to put these panels on, to something akin to what I get from the automated PPI calls and ambulance chasing insurance firms who bombard us daily by phone and email. No wonder rooftop solar is still struggling to get off the ground on any scale. Who can trust these companies??

On the positive, the government feed-in tariff is also creating a wonderful opportunity for Communities to come together and fund their own renewable schemes with a promise of decent returns on investment. This is exactly what the Feed-In Tariff should be used for (that, and supporting domestic householders install their own systems, yes, just not parasitic companies offering dubious free energy schemes…) and is bringing real benefit across the UK. If you’re interested in finding out more on these schemes take a look at some successful ones from around the South West:

I’d like to clarify that there are many great solar companies run with the right intentions and profiting rightly from bringing renewable energy to wider use in the UK. This is and has been great for the economy, the environment and our energy grid. However, there are just as many companies which really do not have your best interests at heart if you are a building owner of any sort, and you need to be cautious if you’re thinking of exploring a ‘no-upfront cost’ energy scheme with a private, unaccountable firm.

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