Photo of successful community energy project Westmill Solar Park in South West England
VONNE is working in partnership with Northern Powergrid and Community Energy England to scale up community energy activity in North East England, which currently has the lowest levels of activity per capita compared to other English regions. Together we plan to bring the benefits of energy saving and generating their own energy through renewable sources to community organisations and the wider public.
This area of work came about following a successful regional conference held in April 2014 on community energy, where VONNE and Northern Powergrid were asked to work together to support the community sector in the North East to understand the opportunities presented by community energy. Further engagement with the sector and another regional event in February 2015 saw the partnership begin to address some of the key challenges and barriers to successful community energy projects. Community Energy England, which also launched in 2014 has picked the North East as an area to concentrate efforts on developing community energy initiatives.
In January 2014 the Department for Energy and Climate Change launched the first ever community energy strategy. In March 2015 an update was published which cites the North East Community Energy partnership work as a case study of good practice.
North East Community Energy
VONNE has been working with Community Energy England, Northern Powergrid and a range of other partners to develop a business plan to take the North East Community Energy project forward.
The project aims to support and deliver work across the four strands of community energy:
- Supporting and enabling capacity building
- Managing energy demand amongst communities
- Generating energy
- Reducing energy use
Supporting and enabling capacity building
Activity in this area will include:
General awareness raising across the voluntary and community sector on the opportunities of community energy
Developing expertise and skills within the sector
Developing Community Energy Experts, Champions and Mentors
Managing energy demand amongst communities
Activity in this area will include:
Focus on energy solutions for off-grid customers
Bulk and collective energy purchase schemes
Reducing fuel poverty through neighbourhood energy schemes
A number of key sites have been identified across the region to develop a range of renewable energy schemes. These schemes will not only generate energy for the local communities to use but will create a long-term sustainable income from selling the energy generated, so profits can go back into the community.
Plans include a tidal hydro project in Seaton Sluice, a community owned wind turbine in Wansbeck and a geothermal heating scheme in Wingrove, Newcastle. The first wave of projects is expected to generate 5MW of renewable energy.
Reducing energy use
This area will focus on
Improving the fabric, energy management and supply of community buildings through measures such as triple glazing and insulation whilst looking at renewable energy sources such as fitting solar panels.
Community buildings as demonstration and exemplar sites to raise awareness of energy saving and energy generation amongst local communities.
The plans will also benefit the region's workforce with opportunities for people to become community energy experts through a proposed mentoring scheme. A large number of apprentices and skilled jobs are expected to be created with roles ranging from installing and managing renewable energy sources to work with communities on advice and energy efficiency.
The North East Community Energy project has developed a series of resources to assist emerging and existing community energy projects including links to national support organisation and funding and investment sources. Visit our community energy resources section.
In September 2015 the Community Energy Hub was launched to provide a one stop shop of resources for community energy group. Please visit the Community Energy Hub here.
Northern Powergrid have published a guide to connections targeted at Community Energy groups. The guide explains the process to getting a connection in plain English aimed at the non-specialist - a connection to the electricity grid is one of the most complicated (and often costly) processes that a community energy group can go through and we’re keen on doing the best we can to help out. Download the guide here.
Join our North East Community Energy LinkedIn group for groups, organisations and individuals who are involved or interested in developing community energy projects and activities in the North East of England.
Community Energy Seed Fund
In 2014 Northern Powergrid launched a seed fund to support community energy projects in the North East, Yorkshire, the Humber and north Lincolnshire. £50,000 was awarded to 10 projects across the north, seven of which were in the North East region. The fund was replicated again in 2015, details can be found here.
In 2016 there were several events in the North East as part of Community Energy Fortnight:
North East Community Energy Conference
Held 4th February 2015, Newcastle
See links to presentations. Look out for post-conference report in coming months.
Following the success of earlier community energy events facilitated by Northern Powergrid and VONNE, 2015's events explored the key problems and solutions identified. Participants heard from a range of national and local experts and attend a series of practical workshops designed to provide support to existing projects and provide tools to facilitate the development of new projects
Community Energy and Local Authorities & Registered Social Landlords
Held 3rd February 2015, Durham
Look out for post-conference report in coming months.
Hosted by the Durham Energy Institute and with Fiona Booth, Head of Community Energy at the Department of Energy and Climate Change providing the key note address, this seminar aimed to raise awareness of the opportunities of community energy for local authorities and registered social landlords in the North East and Yorkshire. Details were shared on the emerging North East Community Energy project, a partnership between Community Energy England, Northern Powergrid and VONNE and the role that LAs and RSLs can play to support a significant scaling up of community energy activities in the North East.