The next few weeks seems to be dominated with community energy projects. To be honest i also find them to be the most satisfying aspect of our work. Next week its Centre for Sustainable Energy presentation on why land owners should get involved with community energy, then on to the Forum for the future presentation at their conference sharing our experience thus far. The single Anafon community hydro seems to be spawning other projects including large-scale hydro prospecting project for an Estate in Snowdonia and the Bethesda old hydro project seems to be gathering momentum.
I have been asked to list a few things which we have experienced with energy generation and communities…this got me thinking
- This sort of work with each community has the same basic elements but each is bespoke. Similar to a hydro. its depends whats there and what you want out of it
- it has to be more than a paper partnership (grant vehicles normally) and has to be a true partnership where benefits are clear. with each party open and honest. simply doing it for an annual report is doomed in the medium to long terms because your intentions can be very shallow
- A community needs its key players who are suitably skilled. the strongest communities i have found have a few good people and not driven by a really enthusiastic individual as these run out of steam eventually (this could even be after the thing is built)
- The National Trust is doing this work to be relevant. we help others to help ourselves. By working on these projects not only do we enhance local reputation and enable others to derive a sustainable income but the charity also increases its income for its much-needed conservation work.
- Expectation is the killer on these projects. people on both sides can mentally spend the money before the pre feasibility has even been conducted. start with a reality check ‘this is a long haul’
- working as a group also releases much-needed risk capital (feasibility to planning) from foundations, trusts and grants. Difficult for individuals to access this money but much easier when the benefits are shared
- It’s the right thing to do! Local resources should realise local benefit and not the loose change which is often the case.
Whats been difficult so far
- Time to bring people up to speed. a community will normally only build one large hydro and so a level of knowledge needs to be built. Plus my time within the day job. More and more evenings. But spent with a group of committed individuals is not so bad
- Contractual side of the development. Ownership, company, development, planning…I would rather be paying for pipes and turbine but we need to pay for all the paper work first
- Bringing a very wide community of stake holder along – the community is fine. Its the other landowners, internal approvals and so on….this is new and therefore people need to be reassured that we understand the risks
BUT it’s not easy, not quick but when it works its definitely worth it. I am also looking a bit closer to home and the large stream passing the house…I wonder?