We had a great event in Plymouth this week with Plymouth Energy Community (PEC), Western Power Distribution (WPD), and 83 participants. The number of people who took part demonstrates the continued enthusiasm of the community energy movement to address climate change, tackle fuel poverty, and shape our changing energy system. The projects showcased have real impact and change lives, if you missed the event you can see the slides here. Community energy organisations are getting better at proving their value, as trusted local actors who can bring their communities with them to evolving markets, they have proven ability to raise capital locally, and join the dots. They do this by putting people first and thinking about how their energy relates to housing which affects their health, and how the electrification of transport is an opportunity to improve mobility. They don’t see energy as an isolated challenge but a chance to improve lives. If you want to meet some of these inspiring people join us at the Renewable Futures Conference and Green Energy Awards on 27 November in Bath, and save the date for our next WPD and Regen community events in Cardiff 6 March, and Exeter 7 March 2019.

PEC told the story of the incredible work they have been doing to alleviate fuel poverty in Plymouth with 1000 home visits, enabling quality conversations that deal with extreme poverty, debt, mental health, long term disability, and the effects of living in cold damp homes. Some of this work is funded by WPD priority service register referrals. PEC called for a people over policy approach, where decisions are made with morality, rather than a market led focus, and they continued the evening of inspiration with Lord John Bird, founder of the big issue, Professor Iain Stewart, Dr Poorna Gunasekera and comedian Matt Winning. They all carried on this theme of direct action from the grassroots to change lives, discussing how we can nudge each other to do more to tackle social inequality and climate change.

We also heard from Kate Royston at Tamar Energy Community about their involvement in OpenLV, a WPD innovation project making substation data available to seven community organisations. The Power in Your Hands project is working to explore the impact of the availability of that data to a local school and households. Peter Crone talked about his vehicle to grid (V2G) project on the Western Isles, with two way charging and discharging of electric vehicles (EVs), providing energy and mobility as a service (EMaaS), and making best use of wind generation to charge the EV fleet. This project is integrated with the Western Isles Council not-for-profit energy supply tariff, a white label of Our Power. South Dartmoor Community Energy are looking to take the concept one stage further by working on a project to builds a new passive house style development of affordable homes for rent, with energy and mobility as a built-in service (HEMs).

Emilia Melville from Carbon Co-op continued the community energy as a service theme by showcasing the Energy Community Aggregator Service (ECAS) concept and talking about the potential to combine retrofit services with managing household flexibility, while also facilitating a discussion about local supply as part of our workshop session. The size of flexibility in each house is relatively small and the community energy movement is well placed to provide a service that keeps the value local, but manages the risks, provides technical skills and operates as a social franchise. Read more about this on Carbon Co-op’s website.

WPD funded this event, and Matt Watson, one of their innovation and low carbon networks engineers, gave feedback on results from their recent community consultation on the transition from Distribution Network Operator (DNO) to Distribution System Operator (DSO).

Read the full feedback and results report here.

WPD is the first DNO to do such a detailed analysis of how communities want to participate in the transition to DSO, and the findings are clear. There was unanimous agreement that communities want to be involved in the DSO transition and shaping our future energy system, but they need support to build their capacity and access to technical expertise to do so. There are some strong messages for Ofgem to include carbon reduction as an explicit licence condition for DNOs, and that a level playing field does not mean treating everyone the same. If we are to address the power imbalance between the incumbents and new entrants to our energy system, we must give more support to less well-resourced actors. WPD has committed to an ongoing programme of community support including new workshops in each new area where they are procuring flexibility services, and a learning approach where they continue to listen and act on feedback to improve and simplify their processes around new services such as flexibility. WPD have worked hard to support communities with guides and online resources available on the community pages of their website, and they are committed to enabling and facilitating what their customers want, including electrification of heat and connecting more low carbon generation and storage, while maintaining cost savings.

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