• 40 community representatives joined Western Power Distribution for dinner on Tuesday.
  • The dinner was part of a festive renewable energy site visit at Castle Drogo to see the restored Victorian hydro project, and biomass boiler.

On Tuesday 40 community representatives from across the south west had dinner with their Distribution Network Operator (DNO), following a muddy winter walk to see the Castle Drogo hydropower and biomass projects on Dartmoor. It was a unique opportunity for community groups to learn more about renewable energy systems, and discuss their innovative community energy project ideas with one of Western Power Distribution’s (WPD) leading engineers in an informal setting.

This latest WPD and Regen event for communities on Tuesday 12 December included a walk up the river Teign to see the hydro power plant in action, and a chance to meet the National Trust team and engineer Chris Elliott from On Stream, who oversaw the recent refurbishment. Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the building and Gilbert Gilkes and Co. installed two turbines in 1926, to power all the gadgets in Julius Drewe’s castle. This was followed by tea and cake at the toasty Castle Drogo visitor centre and a visit to meet Bob and Bertha, the two biomass boilers that heat the castle and visitors centre along with the clean green electricity generated by the hydro.

The 40 community champions who attended this event were invited to join WPD and Regen for a festive dinner at the local pub. This was a great opportunity to build partnerships, talk about possible community energy innovation projects and make grid connections easier for communities. WPD hosted this event to say thank you and continue their ongoing positive engagement of grass roots community representatives and energy groups who they have worked with over the years.

Alex Wilkes from WPD said “The electricity network is nothing without the people connected to it”.

“In recent years we’ve seen a big increase in local community energy schemes connecting to the electricity network. It’s really important to WPD that we engage with our customers but in a setting and format that works best for them. This event has been an excellent example of just that. We were delighted to get such a great turn out and to meet members of the communities that we serve.”

Jodie Giles from Regen said “As our energy system changes it’s vital that communities are involved so that the system is made fairer and can have a positive impact on local energy economies. DNOs are a key partner in the transition, how our energy network is operated will affect us all. This is a good example of a DNO making themselves available to community energy groups for a natter. If you want to do a community energy project and your DNO hasn’t invited you to dinner yet, then invite them to yours and offer them some tea and cake, perhaps before launching into your latest energy project idea!”

WPD has been proactively engaging with communities for the past four years by working with the Regen communities’ network and helping deliver community energy events. They also offer connection surgeries, and a comprehensive website with a range of tools including guides and films about how our energy system is changing.

A big thank you to the community representatives who attended this unique event, and to the National Trust team and Chris Elliott from On Stream for the informative tours of the hydropower plant and the biomass boiler room.

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