Reasons to be cheerful
In January and February this year we had meetings for members and supporters to hear from speakers about developments in renewable and community energy. They gave us a lot of reasons to be cheerful as we look ahead to further work in our community.
In January, Will Cottrell, CEO of the Brighton Energy Co-op talked about their £1m of new community-funded solar PV projects in Sussex and Kent. As one of the earliest community energy groups, Brighton Energy Co-op has witnessed the significant growth in community energy over the last 5 years. That’s being challenged by recent government changes, and Will talked us through the changes and their impacts. However, Will remains optimistic and expects new business models to emerge.
In February, Jonathan Gaventa, an HKD Energy investor and a director of the E3G environmental thinktank, talked about the ‘extraordinary transition’ to clean energy. The pace of change is demonstrated by China, which has more wind and solar power than any other country, and in the next 14 years is planning new clean energy infrastructure generating 800-1,000 GW, equivalent to the entire European power system.
While energy systems have traditionally been seen as expensive, large pieces of kit that take years to build, solar and other low carbon alternative energy is more likely to be small and decentralised, and installed directly by consumers. In the last few years the UK has seen:
- Renewable electricity generation increasing faster than in sector-leaders Germany
- Carbon emissions dropping (in part from closing old coal-fired power plants)
- Energy demand falling (mainly because of energy efficiency measures)
Even with small and local energy generation, connections to a wider grid are important and can help the transition to clean energy, because they move electricity around large areas and can smooth out demand and supply. For example, this winter has seen record wind energy generation, and this can go south where solar has not been doing so well.
Our final speakers were Chris Rowland and Nick Rouse from OVESCo, both also directors of the new Meadow Blue Community Energy, which recently raised over £1.2m in a share issue for a large 5MW solar farm near Chichester. This represents a significant ‘scaling up’ for community energy, from relatively small rooftop projects. Meadow Blue is financed by the share issue, bank loans and they hope from an investment by West Sussex County Council. Once built the farm will be a wildflower meadow with sheep grazing. Looking ahead, Chris said he expected solar rooftop projects to continue to be built, although with changes in the business model.
HKD Energy directors are developing our strategy for moving forward, despite the government policy changes. We have some projects under review and will communicate more about these when they are further developed.
Thanks to all of you for your continuing interest and support.