Community Energy Fortnight is always a good time to reflect upon the value that communities bring to our energy system, what motivates community organisations to participate in our energy system, and how the sector as a whole could support communities to continue to play an active role.
In that spirit, last week we welcomed 22 people to Stafford for the second of our Local Energy, a Flexible Future workshops with Western Power Distribution (WPD), helping communities and local energy stakeholders get to grips with new local flexibility markets in their area, equipping them with the knowledge and facilitating conversations necessary for them to participate.
Why do we want communities to be involved?
Regen’s mission is to decarbonise, decentralise and democratise our energy system. That third ‘D’ is crucial and is one of the core reasons we run these events alongside WPD. We want to help communities make the most of new sources of value in our energy system, such as flexibility, as they are key to ensuring a just and equitable energy transition and helping everyone to benefit from a new low-carbon, decentralised system. The income they gain from community-owned renewable energy generation schemes helps them carry out local fuel poverty work and is re-invested back into their communities.
We saw a great example of this in Stafford thanks to Mike Kinghan, who spoke about his involvement with two community energy groups in the area, Southern Staffordshire Community Energy (SSCE) and Chase Community Solar (CCS). SSCE’s flagship project involves installing eight solar PV systems on rooftops of hospitals throughout the North Midlands, helping local hospitals to save money on their electricity bills and using income from the Feed-in Tariff to provide energy advice to patients who were suffering ill health as a result of fuel poverty at home. Now, SSCE want to use these assets to provide flexibility services to WPD and use income generated to increase their reach with local fuel poverty work and help more patients whose health could be improved with a warmer, more energy efficient home. CCS have PV installations on 340 homes in their local area, Cannock Chase. A lot of these installations are on social housing, and CCS want to help these tenants, many of whom are in fuel poverty, to reduce their energy bills by being flexible with their energy use and using more of the electricity generated on their rooftop.
WPD can help communities advance these goals, by paying consumers to be flexible in their East Midlands, West Midlands and South West licence areas. Communities can participate in these markets by offering flexible services using the assets they have, you can see where you need to be and how much WPD will pay on their Flexible Power website.
Keeping value local
We also heard from Ben Aylott from Carbon Co-op, who are the foremost community organisation in the country working on flexibility and demand-side response. He explained how communities can keep more of the value of flexibility local by up-skilling themselves and increasing their technical capacity to aggregate flexible household load in their community. Carbon Co-op’s concept for this is the Energy Community Aggregator Service (ECAS), which could then sell flexibility from local residents on to a commercial aggregator or bid directly into a local flexibility market. Communities doing aggregation themselves means they retain more of the income they earn from flexibility as they don’t have to outsource as many technical services, and this income can be re-invested back into community projects. Communities want a framework for setting up an ECAS, Regen are working with Carbon Co-op on this through the OpenDSR demonstrator project, and you can read our local flexibility markets guide for communities here.
If you want to find out more about how to get involved in flexibility markets in the South West, we’ll be in Exeter and Bridgwater with WPD this week for the final couple of Local Energy, a Flexible Future workshops. Register your free place here.