About five years ago I first started hearing about community owned energy co-operatives: how communities could rally together, buy shares in renewable energy projects and start to generate their own power.
It was something that seemed too good to be true and where would you even start? Further down the line and there are plenty of examples of community owned energy. Getting started has never been easier. We’ve got people who have been there and done it. We’ve also got incentives and support from government.
Here’s a quick run through of 5 things we could get moving on in 2015 in Kent - and elsewhere in the UK.
1. Get help from the people who have "been there and done that".
Just over the border, there are plenty of examples and a willingness to help. East Sussex based, Community Energy South is at the ready to provide expertise and support. Ovesco has also secured funding to offer mentoring to groups who wish to start a community owned energy co-operative. Subscribe to Community Energy South and/or find out more about Ovesco’s mentoring scheme offer.
2. Get support from central, district and local government.
There are plenty of funding sources to help get you started. For rural areas like East Kent, there is the Rural Community Energy Fund ( RCEF) which offers up to £20K for feasibility studies and then further access to finance in the form of a loan for up to £130K to pay for business planning and planning applications.The Big Lottery, Esme Fairburn, UK Power Networks and a host of other funders offer grants ranging from £hundreds to £hundreds of thousands for community energy projects
3. Get to grips with all the incentive schemes
Incentives abound for the whole range of different technologies – and there are added tax bonuses for community owned energy co-operatives. It’s a case of putting all the pieces of a puzzle together and you’ll come up with the local model that is going to work for you. There are plenty of financial incentives, and the better versed you are in how they all work, the better the business case. So, some top line ones to think about are:
Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) scheme
The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) Scheme
Both schemes offer fixed tariffs to community energy groups and there are added tax incentives for community groups. For full advice and signposting, it is best to make the most of the mentoring and support in point one, but to look up just how much is out there, click here
4. Find out where all our budding community energy projects are in Kent.
A good start are our transition town teams or local green groups, most of whom are already talking to Kent County Council. Community energy projects are what they say they are – a community endeavour. Therefore, it’s very important to have a sizeable group of people on board. You’re going to need ambassadors just as much as core delivery people and so it’s best to make the most of all the stakeholders and potential partners out there. Kent County Council has done a lot of the groundwork already and can bring plenty of expertise to the table.
See page ten of this report for more information.
5. PICK one and get going!
In the end, it’s just a case of getting started. Four years ago that is what OVESCO did in Lewes in East Sussex. Four years down the line and community energy co-operatives are popping up all over the East and West Sussex. We’re looking for the Kent equivalents and 2015 is definitely time that we got started.
Happy energy-generating 2015
Stephanie Karpetas works with communities, businesses and public sector organisations,
helping shape and deliver programmes that make sustainable development feasible
and fun. Stephanie has recently set up Sustainability Connections
and is working on low carbon projects in Kent and Europe. She is a Co-founder
and Director of Action
Women! Community CIC