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The very words ‘Annual General Meeting’ can make eyes glaze over. But NCE’s recent AGM was lively and informative, with so much good stuff going on. Here’s a glimpse if you missed it.

First, Sue Reed, our company secretary, reported that NCE’s finances are in good health. Our investors are enjoying their predicted generous returns. Our solar panel hosts – schools, farms and commercial buildings – are getting cheaper electricity. And here’s the exciting bit – the Society’s income from generation and sales to the grid means we are able to add another chunk of money to our community benefit fund which, by law, must be spent on good works to improve the lives of local people. When the fund has built up sufficiently, we will be announcing a small grants scheme open to community groups. So, watch this space.

Richard Ecclestone, our asset manager, gave us a rapid-fire overview of our 16 existing installations – around 600kW of solar panels, generating around 53,000kWh per year – enough to power 180 average homes for a year. These are our ‘bread-and-butter’ and, although generally trouble-free, can sometimes have issues, more often with the monitoring equipment and inverters than the panels themselves. Richard described the regular servicing, the occasional panel cleaning and the NCE team set-up to ensure optimum performance and resilience.

Next, Emma Worth, our Project Manager, reminded members that our second solar portfolio and share offer, back in 2018, involved five local schools, now enjoying much cheaper electricity. She also described how we had helped two further local schools gain funding to put in heat pumps, reducing carbon emissions by about 100,000kg a year. Emma outlined plans to install solar panels on six more schools, under the auspices of the Sherborne Academy Schools Trust. We hope this third portfolio will form the basis of a substantial new share offer, which if fully subscribed would take our total generating capacity close to a megawatt – that’s BIG. Full details as soon as we have all the agreements in place.

Next up was new director Gustavo Montes de Oca, leading on the Tisbury Electric Car Club, a Nadder Community Energy off-shoot. Gustavo told us that, despite various hiccups, the club was proving to be a great community asset, providing Tisbury folk with a cheap and flexible means of getting about using our two secondhand Renault Zoes. Membership has reached nearly 100, which is brilliant, but despite being run entirely by volunteers, the club is steadily losing money and we would very much welcome whatever support people feel they can give.

Another of our directors, Rosie Buck, talked about two further community benefit initiatives. The Tisbury Eco-Trail held back in June as part of Great Big Green Week had a dozen local homeowners opening their homes to visitors to discuss their various green technologies, from solar panels to heat pumps, and from electric car chargers to domestic batteries. Hopefully, to repeat next year. The second initiative, ‘Warmer at Home,’ involves a small team of volunteers trained to give trusted independent non-commercial advice to people struggling to keep their home warm this winter. Anything from simple draughtproofing tips to being on a better tariff or applying for grants. If you know of anyone who might benefit from this, please suggest they get in touch with us.

Finally, long-standing director Maggie Paul encouraged everyone to drop in on our regular Green Drinks, an informal get-together at the Boot Inn on the last Tuesday of each month at 7.30pm. Maggie and Sue are also intending to arrange a series of bigger events, with speakers on energy/climate/sustainability issues, over the coming months. Again, watch this space.

Alan Maryon-Davis

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