Last week I was with Keith and Paul having my induction for the Fit4Future Network. The idea was total immersion, so that I would get an idea of the breadth of the projects and challenges they face, with the aim of becoming a better ‘environmental match-maker’.
The week began with a meeting in Manchester at the Co-operative UK’s shiny new greenest-building-in-the-world offices. We went there to explore energy aggregation, but ended up discussing everything in between: energy efficiency tariffs, electric cars and some unexpected overlaps in current projects…thank goodness we went there! One conversation has saved both parties a lot of time (which is what the F4F Network is all about).
Tuesday included a trip to Shropshire for the NT’s quarterly Environmental Adviser’s meeting, a chance for all the ‘victims’ within the Trust to update the rest of the team on current projects and see how they can share resources and tools.
Back in the evening to Llanberis to meet one of the 6 community energy groups Keith is involved in. Still in the early stages, the group have earmarked 5 community buildings they would like to install PV and other renewables onto. Interestingly, and very unlike the NT approach – they want the panels to be as visible as possible, almost as a badge of honour for community energy in the region in the hope of inspiring more.
Talk here (apart from being in Welsh) was around leases, contracts, and tenders – the complex and time consuming processes which community groups easily get bamboozled by. As well as advising groups on the processes, Keith had played match-maker and invited two organisations to meet the group; a Welsh Gov. supported organisation called Ynni’r Fro and Gwynedd Werdd, another public sector initiative supporting communities to become self-sufficient. Both organisations had pots of funding and resources for mentoring – invaluable introductions if you ask me.
Day 4 was spent at Hafod y Llan with National Trust for Scotland (NTS) showing them the hydros, PV, biomass and other environmental experiments on the farm.
NTS are where we were about 3-5 years ago; appreciating the financial resilience renewables can bring, but nervous about mixing renewables with conservation. This is where F4F Network really comes into play; because we’ve been there, we’ve already developed some of the processes and tools needed to make sure the right technology is chosen for the right area. The staff at Hafod y Llan may not have all the answers, but the ecologists, conservators, archaeologists were able to talk to their Scottish peers and pass on invaluable advice. It was an incredibly productive day – resulting in a return trip to Aaron to peer review some of their potential projects, something which if successful, we’d like to roll out with other Network members.
As well as overseeing delivery of an anaerobic digester, site visit to the Craflwyn 15Kw hydro before work starts on Monday, Penrhyn Castle for a pit stop and dozens of discussions in between about contracts, energy suppliers, heat pumps and insulation (to name a few), the week was invaluable insight.
The tour hasn’t finished yet though! In a couple of weeks I’m off to the RNLI and if possible, I’d like to see what more of our Fit4Future Network members are up to. If you’re a Network member and wouldn’t mind me shadowing you for a day, do please get in touch.