The next stage in the Community Energy: co-operative solutions project is to spend some time with five energy co-operatives to find out about their practical and policy challenges.
With well over 30 energy co-operatives across the UK, we know that with five we can't cover all the bases. What we've tried to do is get as broad a spread as possible in terms of geography, type of technology and length of operation.
The five co-operatives that the Community Energy researchers will be visiting over the summer period are:
- Cwm Arian in Pembrokeshire
- Green Energy Nayland in Suffolk
- Ovesco Limited in East Sussex
- River Bain Hydro in Yorkshire
- Valley Wind Co-operative in Yorkshire
These are the areas that the researchers will be exploring:
- The group’s story: How and why did the project come about? What was the journey from idea to actuality? What are the future plans/vision for the group and does this relate to the wider sector (link with questions below re identity as a co-op)?
- Help, advice and support: What support did the group use and how did they know about it and access it? Mention specific toolkits – Energy4All’s Energy Steps website for wind; WOCR’s advice on its website. What would they have liked?
- Profile of the group: Who is involved? How did they get involved?
- Skills: what skills do the group have? How do they access specialist skills e.g. financial, legal, technical, community engagement / facilitation?
- How does the group work, and how does it involve people? Community meetings? Surveys / questionnaires/ Activities?
- Institutional support: What organisations have supported them? Local Authorities? Energy companies? Who would they want to form alliances with? Ask specifically about the Co-operative Bank – how has it been involved, and how could it help?
- What difficulties have been encountered?
- What impact has the project had on its members and the wider community?
- Benefits of the project: What wider benefits have there been? Financial, carbon saving, energy generated, jobs, strengthened community, greater awareness of environmental issues, etc. and are these visible, communicated and understood by the wider community?
- How the project has changed: did they have a clear plan / business model before they began? How have things changed? What costs were not costed originally?
- Does the group identify as a co-operative? What are their views on the sector collectively, and what it could contribute? What is their vision for the sector?
- How could co-ops work collectively? E.g. exploring shared risk; the potential for a network of investors for community schemes; joint buying of insurance; bulk selling of electricity; potential for a central repository for standard contracts, lease agreements, templates etc, which all schemes could use
- Views on government policy & legislation: What has been helpful and unhelpful?
- Factfile: we should collect the following information about each scheme (this can be done from websites / by phone, in part)
- Size of scheme (in kW / MW)
- Number of members
- Legal form e.g. IPS, CIC etc
- How much is the scheme paid for its electricity?
- Which company is electricity sold to?
We'd be happy to hear from anyone involved in an energy co-operative about your experiences in relation to the points above. You can post your comments here, or if there is sensitive information you'd rather not share please email me.