THE ENERGY TOOLKIT

07. ENGAGE WITH STAKEHOLDERS

Stakeholders are potentially interested in your project, ranging from local landowners/farmers, business owners, residents, councils, energy bodies, and potential investors. They broaden the pool of people who care about the success of your project, they can provide support, guidance, information and funding or investment.

 

  • Identify and engage with stakeholders in your community – online, in person (if possible, or if COVID allows), through regular communications and activities. 

  • Talk to people and find out what concerns or queries they have. Each person we talked to was very generous in sharing their time and knowledge. They also recommended other people to speak to, and other websites or documents to read. 

 

Here are the different stakeholders we engaged with: 

 

WORKING EFFECTIVELY WITH YOUR LOCAL COUNCILS  

 

It makes sense for us to all work together, share learning, and find solutions as there is no point in reinventing the wheel. There is clearly an appetite to do this, as well as a necessity for us all to tackle this problem together. 

 

PARTNERSHIP WITH BASINGSTOKE & DEANE BOROUGH COUNCIL (BDBC)

 

We initially attended the Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council climate summit, which gave us important insight into what was happening at borough level. It was heartening to see the engagement with so many different organisations and businesses, coming together to tackle this problem at a local level, including inspiring speeches from Martin Heath from Basingstoke Energy Services Cooperative (BES) among others, who have been instrumental in proving us with support and advice.

We have developed a very good relationship with the two members of the Climate Team at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Lucy Martins and Sam Taylor, since we started our group a year ago. We have been sharing our experiences and learning and they have been impressed with what we have been doing. BDBC are very keen for other parishes to start thinking about community energy, but understand that it can be a daunting, complex, and very technical sector. They have supported the Sustainable Overton Energy Group in applying for the RCEP feasibility grant, and producing this toolkit to assist other parishes.

HAMPSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL (HCC)  

 

Representatives from our parish council attended HCC’s “Vision for Hampshire 2050” in January 2020. It was clear that in order to meet the required carbon reduction targets for 2050, a complete step change is required and that community energy projects at a local level were one of the key pillars in achieving this. Parish councils will need to engage with local communities and businesses and expert advice to find an appropriate solution.

Hampshire County Council’s climate team, led by Mike Culver, has run several workshops and presentation, to communicate their strategy to various local energy groups, including Sustainable Overton. They have also conducted some fascinating research into motivations and barriers to change, detailed in our other toolkit. They have been very supportive of what we are trying to achieve. It also helps to understand the energy strategy not just at borough and county level, but at government level also. Hampshire are working closely with Community Energy South to help local projects get off the ground – see the Pathways project under the section titled ‘Community Energy South’. 

 

 

OTHER PARISH COUNCILS OR LOCAL ENERGY GROUPS 

 

It is well worth reaching out to other local parish councils to share experiences and ideas. Other local groups are powerful allies – providing experience and support, to share learning. If your parish is small, it makes sense to expand your area and link up with a neighbouring parish that might have more opportunity for solar PV or other community energy. 

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LEARNING POINT:

  • Take time to build strong bonds with your local councils and local landowners/business owners. 

  • Take time to read the various strategy and research documents – even if it is only the executive summary. 

  • There may be economies of scale to be had by working with other parishes. 

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GETTING LOCAL LANDOWNERS AND COMMUNITY BUILDING OWNERS ON BOARD 

  • It is useful to build up your local contacts early on, to build strong relationships and credibility. 

  • It is useful to have people in the team who already have some relationships with local farmers/landowners and businesses. 

  • It is important to build strong relationships so that people will trust to sign up to the concept, and be prepared to sign up to a long-term agreement when they could in fact do this privately themselves (although they would then have to raise the capital). 

  • Many people have not heard of community energy (in fact, most of our contacts had not), or understood what it involved, and so the concept needs to be clearly explained and promoted. 

  • People will need time to think about the concept and how it could work for them. Some organisations may be a “slow burn”, so leave enough time for them to thoroughly research the proposal.
     

 

ENGAGING WITH KEY ENERGY BODIES 

 

We have engaged with all the key energy organisations that we could identify. This has helped up build up our knowledge.

 

Community Energy South (CES)  

 

Community Energy South’s mission is growing and stimulating local ownership of Community Energy in the South East of England and providing a voice for the sector across the region. Community Energy South have been working with regional County Councils to develop the Pathways Project to develop the community energy sector in their region.  Working closely with Hampshire County Council, the Hampshire Pathways Project is:

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  • Engaging with groups and individuals to establish the level of interest in community led energy projects and to find out what plans, ideas and skills are already in place.

  • Mapping the groups across the county.

  • Developing guidance and training to provide support for new groups and projects.

  • Identifying groups that could benefit from ‘first-steps’ business development support from

  • Identifying groups that could benefit from in-depth support to become incorporated, produce a business plan and submit a funding bid for a medium to large scale project. 

 

If you go to their website, you will find the Pathways project here. Click on the green “project briefing” button at the bottom, that takes you to the HCC and CES Pathways briefing document. You can complete the short survey, register your interest, and sign up for their free energy masterclasses and newsletter.

Energy Hubs

There are five government funded energy hubs that cover England. They work with public sector organisations and their stakeholders to support the development and financing of local energy projects. Their purpose is to increase the number, scale, and quality of local energy projects. They offer advice and information to overcome barriers that may prevent these projects getting off the ground. This can be rooftop solar, ground-mounted solar or other energy sources such as renewable heat (i.e. heat pumps and biomass boilers), wind or hydrordo.

They can also direct you to sources of funding and help you develop your proposition. At present, they have a funding initiative (the RCEF – Rural Community Energy Fund) that is currently available until June 2021. This information came from a presentation made by the South West Energy Hub (which we then discovered did not cover northern parts of Hampshire). The presentation was fascinating, but it was hard to see how we could come up with an innovative project that would meet the criteria given our limited knowledge. We then connected with Paul Kemp and John Taylor from South East Energy Hub, and their role was to help us come up with viable projects. This can be something relatively straightforward, such as solar PV on a number of large rooftops. They have been extremely supportive in helping us work through how to apply for the RCEF grant, and how to navigate the technical and complex aspects. Our bid to the RCEF was submitted on 5th November 2020 for a bundle of solar PV on five sites in the parish.

New RCEF applicants should make initial contact with Greater South East Energy Hub via their email.  You can read about the Rural Community Energy Fund, and find guidance notes and application forms here

 

Community Energy England (CEE)

Community Energy England was established in 2014 as a not-for-profit organisation, set up to provide a voice for the community energy sector and help create the conditions within which community energy can flourish. We are members of CEE. They regularly run workshops on key topics – a recent example was on making a post-FiT model work, bulk buying solar and heat pumps, with practitioners sharing knowledge and cutting-edge thinking. 

 

National Energy Foundation (NEF)

Established in 1988, NEF is an independent, national charity at the forefront of improving the use of energy in buildings: understanding energy use; improving new and existing buildings; helping householders save energy and money; providing impartial advice; undertaking research and innovation and tackling fuel poverty. 

 

Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)

CAT is an educational charity dedicated to researching and communicating positive solutions for environmental change. They liaise with government campaigners about policies that will help create a zero carbon Britain. They also train students in all aspects of sustainability, help schoolchildren to understand the importance of action on climate change, and give advice to householders on what they can do to save energy in their own homes. CAT’s mission is to inspire, inform, and enable people to achieve practical solutions for sustainability. They have brilliant videos and resources on their website. 

 

COMMUNITY ENERGY CONSULTANCIES

 

There are several experienced consultancies in community energy that have a variety of services and links with other community groups which are useful. There is also an abundant amount of information published on their websites. 

Energy Saving Trust

Energy Saving Trust is an independent organisation, set up in 1992.  Working to address the climate emergency, they are a respected and trusted voice on energy efficiency and clean energy solutions, working towards a smart, decarbonised, decentralised energy system.

 

  • They empower millions of householders every year to make better energy choices. 

  • They deliver transformative energy programmes, working with governments. 

  • They support businesses with energy efficient strategies, research, assurance and communications, enabling them to play their part in building a sustainable future. 

  • They provide advice for householders, governments, and businesses, as successive energy bills and global agreements have reinforced the critical need for energy efficiency and carbon reduction. 

  • There are some great accessible short videos for householders on here to help them with energy efficiency. A great resource for residents and businesses alike. 

Regen

Regen is a not-for-profit centre of energy expertise and market insight, whose mission is to transform the world’s energy systems for a zero-carbon future.  

Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE)

CSE is a Bristol based independent national charity who share their knowledge and practical experience to empower people to change the way they think and act about energy. 

National Energy Foundation 

NEF are an independent, national charity at the forefront of improving the use of energy in buildings: understanding energy use; improving new and existing buildings; helping householders save energy and money; providing impartial advice; undertaking research and innovation; tackling fuel poverty. 

 

Carbon Trust

The Carbon Trust are an expert partner for businesses, governments, and organisations around the world – supporting them in realising ambitious plans for a sustainable, low-carbon future. From setting the strategic direction, foot printing and target setting, analysing energy systems and climate action plans, independent experts will help navigate the risks and opportunities of climate change. 

 

Basingstoke Energy Co-Op

Basingstoke Energy Co-Op have worked with many community groups in site identification, feasibility studies, and in the design and installation of renewable energy systems.

 

 

LEARNING FROM OTHER COMMUNITY ENERGY GROUPS 

 

The initial work by the team was desktop research and networking with relevant organisations in the field. Some of these organisations has started when the FiT (Feed in Tariff) still existed, so have different business models to what we are doing now, as they were able to install solar PV on community buildings and schools, which is often not a viable model in the post-FiT world. Some are larger, more well-established organisations. So, not a cut-and-paste for where we find ourselves now. However, they still have plenty of things we can learn from. So, we needed to work out how we as a small energy project could use this information to develop out plans. There is no need for local community energy groups to “reinvent the wheel” without realising. It is important to make contact with other groups- in Hampshire, we have PeCAN, ACAN, CREW in Whitchurch and WINACC in Winchester, for example, who have all been extremely helpful in sharing information. 

 

We made contact with:

  • Basingstoke Energy Coop – Martin Heath is a mine of information, and has many years of experience, and has been extremely helpful to us throughout the year, as well as on writing this toolkit. He works closely with BDBC, as well as other key organisations. 

  • Brighton Energy Coop – Brighton Energy Cooperative was very generous in giving up their time, shared all their lessons learnt, e.g. how to avoid people leaving the group due to burn out. Even though out group is only a year old, you can see that it is hard to walk away if there is no-one to take over. This makes it particularly important to nurture and support the team, remaining positive, giving clear direction when needed, or giving people scope to do things by themselves. It also means constantly advertising for volunteers to cover for the ups and downs of life – illness, babies, holidays, or people just wanting a break. 

  • Brixton Energy (post FiIT model)

  • Bath & West Community Energy

  • Reading Community Energy

  • Power for People

  • West Mill Wind Farm

  • Share Energy

  • Calleva Community Energy

  • Exeter Community Energy

  • Big Solar - The Big Solar Co-op is a new approach to subsidy-free community solar, supported by Sharenergy. They work across the UK to:

    • Make solar viable on a huge range of sites – without subsidy

    • Empower and support volunteers to work together to get it built

    • Fight the climate crisis through large-scale, grassroots community action

So, effectively if you don’t want the hassle of setting up your own cooperative or BenCom, you can simply identify sites and then talk to them. What you won’t get is any community energy fund. They offer useful webinars.  www.bigsolar.coop

Many of these groups are established with more expansive plans which started when FiIT existed. However, there is plenty that you can learn from these groups

LEARNING POINT:

  • Research can take a long time and effort. This could be divvied up amongst team members, so the workload is shared, and everyone has a part to play. 

  • Remember that some co-ops were set up when the FiIT existed, so take what information is useful, but keep the post-FiIT model in mind.  

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