Plymouth’s energy revolution
Over the last few years, Plymouth has been home to an uprising of residents not prepared to blindly allow their energy future to be dictated to them. Thankfully, Plymouth City Council’s co-operative vision has ensured that community energy plays an important role in tackling fuel poverty and climate change in the city.
Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) has quickly grown from a Council initiative into a big-thinking, multifaceted operation. We are helping thousands of people engage in the energy conversation and making real grass-roots differences, socially, economically and environmentally. By partnering up with other organisations, we are giving Plymouth residents access to a range of services to help save energy and money that aren’t being offered by anyone else. We offer help to clear fuel debt, a friendly energy advice visit in the home, help with supplier switching, free or subsidised insulation. These services delivered by an impartial, trusted, local source really is, and continues to be, life changing for so many.
A major challenge for local organisations is the limited capacity of community groups to deliver services effectively using voluntary time alone. PEC have overcome this by collaborating and forming partnerships with a range of voluntary sector, public and commercial organisations, enabling volunteer time to be focused on the activities most likely to offer a rewarding experience for volunteers. Our volunteers provide the backbone of what we do and as we have become increasingly successful with proven results, levels of trust and confidence are strengthened and the more people want to become a part of it.
By giving people the opportunity to invest in community-owned renewable energy we have made clean energy accessible to all and thanks to like-minded investors ensured that solar energy becomes a significant player in Plymouth’s energy mix. All going well, 6MW of community-owned solar power will be supporting our ambitions and providing our children with a vision of what we hope will be their future, this is the equivalent amount of energy to power approximately 1800 homes.
The government’s recent changes to support for the renewable energy sector are making what we are trying to achieve increasingly difficult. Community groups like ourselves rely on pre-accreditation of schemes to ensure that we have sufficient time to raise the capital required. The proposed significant changes in the Feed in tariff, are not in line with the falling costs of solar installation therefore making future community share offers virtually impossible for us and are prematurely being implemented. Nevertheless, we are confident that the roots of community energy are well planted in Plymouth and won’t be shaken that easily. Whether a volunteer, Director, Councillor, team member, resident with new insulation or a teacher with community-owned solar panels on their school roof; everyone who gets involved with PEC believes in what we are doing - abundant proof that our model is working. We believe PEC’s model of using renewable energy to generate a community benefit fund, coupled with an innovative partnership with our local authority to increase the number of residents benefiting from community energy is easily replicable and hope to see more local authority supported community energy groups springing up and flourishing across the UK.
Over 1000 members and 350 investors with an appetite for change are causing the rumblings of an energy revolution to get louder in Plymouth and beyond. Community groups across the country are standing together to respond to the government’s recent consultation. You can find out more about the implications of the FIT review on the south west renewables industry here, submit your own response to the consultation here. For further information about Plymouth Energy Community, please visit www.plymouthenergycommunity.com.