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New Year – a new dawn for community energy schemes?

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

We bang on about the benefits of heat pumps, solar panels and electric cars because we firmly believe that clean, green energy is the surest and safest way to achieve energy security and save the planet. But what does 2023 hold for the whole idea of community energy?

Nadder Community Energy (NCE) is a not-for-profit community benefit society of local people who put up money to provide more affordable renewable energy resources for our schools, farms, commercial buildings and the like, and invest any surplus funds into projects that benefit our local community. Since we were founded in 2015 we have installed 16 substantial solar arrays, facilitated a clutch of heat pumps, established a successful electric car sharing scheme (Tisbury Electric Car Club) and supported various energy-related initiatives around the Nadder Valley.

We’re very much looking forward to building on these achievements in 2023 and are getting close to launching our next portfolio of solar installations for local people to invest in, hopefully in the next few months. Watch this space.

We are also keen to diversify into other more ambitious initiatives, taking our cue from the many and varied community energy groups across the country. NCE is just one of nearly 700 like-minded groups dotted throughout the UK, with the potential to power 2.2 million homes by 2030 (according to the lobbying organisation Power for People), saving 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

Local community energy groups like NCE are arguably the greatest and largely untapped source of renewable energy this country possesses. Our enthusiasm and commitment are unbounded – and yet as a nationwide movement we are held back by a minefield of underfunding, planning restrictions and regulatory inertia. Community energy projects offer 12-13 times more community value than commercial models and yet they make up a tiny 0.8 percent of the UK’s current electricity capacity. That’s such a shame and such a waste of a highly motivated and largely voluntary workforce.

Fortunately, things look likely to shift in the right direction this coming year, at least in some respects. The government is showing signs of easing restrictions on larger-scale renewable projects such as solar farms, battery parks and onshore wind. There is also a bill going through Parliament, the Local Electricity Bill, which would allow local generators like NCE to supply electricity to local people. This would really open up the market and allow cheaper, greener local generating schemes to undercut the big suppliers at the same time as helping to balance the national grid. It could be a real win/win for tackling fuel poverty and helping to reach zero carbon in areas like ours.

So, plenty to get our teeth into – but in the meantime, just space to say that NCE is working with Tisbury Parish Council by offering basic home energy advice to people visiting the warm community hubs at the Nadder Centre and Methodist Church. Details elsewhere in Focus.

Happy Renewable Year!

Alan Maryon-Davis

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