Project duration: 2013 – present
Since 2013, Regen has worked with Western Power Distribution (WPD) on a programme of community energy engagement to help build a thriving community energy movement across the South West, South Wales and the Midlands. The programme includes online content, but is underpinned by free events aimed at community energy groups, local authorities, academics and local energy stakeholders, to facilitate networking, explore the latest developments in the sector and discuss how communities can be at the heart of a decarbonised, decentralised and democratised energy system.
Over the past seven years, we’ve delivered:
- Over 40 community engagement events across WPD’s four licence areas. These have included workshop sessions, site visits to exemplar community energy projects and feasts to allow people to network and share their experiences.
- Community Energy Vulnerable Customers Packs to support communities in their fuel poverty work.
- Animations for WPD on the shift to DSO, the growth of electric vehicles, the role of local flexibility, electricity storage, demand side response, local supply and alternative connections.
- Write ups of case studies on DNO-community innovation projects, such as OpenLV and the Sunshine Tariff.
- A series of podcasts with WPD to share learnings on projects from key communities, featuring South Dartmoor Community Energy, Ambition Lawrence Weston and Brendon Energy.
- Three versions of the Connecting Community Energy guide, written in plain English as a guide to getting a network connection for communities, especially in WPD’s licence areas, updated every 2-3 years.
- Running a consultation for communities on the future of our electricity network, gathering 46 responses to help WPD understand how they can support communities to participate in our changing system. Responses clearly showed the desire of communities to participate in new developments such as local flexibility, and influence WPD’s strategy to focus more on carbon reduction.
- Helping to write WPD’s Net Zero Communities Strategy, which sets out what they have done, and what they will do next to support community and local energy organisations, based on feedback from WPD’s extensive engagement over the past eight years.
- Supporting WPD to put out a call for innovation ideas from communities, local authorities or local energy organisations to fund trials through the Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) which explore ways to support people in fuel poverty and vulnerable customers as we transition to a smarter, decarbonised network. The call included a one-page guide to NIA funding.
Recently, these community energy events have focused on innovation and new opportunities in flexibility, as we’ve also explored in our Power to Participate project. Our energy system is changing rapidly and with the closure of the Feed-In Tariff Scheme in 2019, we want to ensure communities are not left behind new developments and understand future opportunities from new innovations and business models. These events are valuable for WPD customers as they:
- keep them up to date with the latest connections and innovation news
- help them engage in the changes to the energy system, including the transition from Distribution Network Operator (DNO) to Distribution System Operator (DSO)
- give them direct access to highly experienced WPD staff
- help them share learning from local projects
- support regional networking.
The long term and strategic nature of this engagement has led to a positive relationship between the community groups and WPD, with conversations becoming increasingly constructive and forward-looking. Read our blogs following on from the Local Energy, a Flexible Future events in summer 2019. We recently ran the next series of community engagement events with WPD – ‘Communities and the smart energy revolution’. These took place in March 2020 and slides from the events can be found here: Birmingham, Leicester, Carmarthen and Bristol.
We have a special rate for community energy organisations who would like to be members of Regen which can be found here.