The idea of everyone bringing a case study to the reading group was great. We had a really interesting discussion about each of them. The points system broke down a bit as the pointsmaster was away. But it could be reinstated for the next session.I brought a case study about a wind farm project, which initially attempted to provide benefit to the local community by giving shares to households for free. The idea was to share equity, not just some financial fund, and to make that free, not something that people would have to pay for, so that it would be more equitable. However, there were two issues with this: the shares would be transferred to the person, not the house, so people could take the money and leave, moving away from the wind farm and getting the pay out. The other issue was that of where to draw a geographical boundary – there would always be someone just outside the boundary of eligibility, even if there were several banded areas with greater benefits the nearer to the wind farm. This could lead to resentment between neighbours where the boundary was. In the end other options such as allowing people to buy shares (paid for), or having a community fund for general community benefits were more feasible. (20 points for brining a new person plus 10 points for an original case study = 30 points)
The next set of case studies were from Nick (10 points each for three case studies = 30 points).
1. Repowering London: Repowering is a not for profit social enterprise that supports the development of community energy in London. They started with the Brixton Energy Cooperative, which provided apprenticeships for young people in the tower blocks where the installed solar panels, and supported the young people to install draught proofing in the homes of the people in the tower blocks. This all took place in close collaboration with Lambeth Council, who also provided some funding. http://www.repowering.org.uk/
2. The Highgate Society’s home information packs: these are information packs that estate agents in Highgate have agreed to give out to people when they buy their home, providing information on how to improve the energy efficiency of their home. This sparked a discussion of how we could replicate such a thing in Bristol, and Nick’s experience of trying to work with estate agents on incorporating energy efficiency into their Continuing Professional Development courses (very challenging, at the time). We also discussed the potential for Bristol Green Doors to work with estate agents, potentially with a Green Doors event especially for them. This is something they are thinking about, but it may be a while before it starts to happen… http://www.highgatesociety.com/pages/place/sustainable-homes/homeowner-packs.php
3. GP referrals: in Liverpool, the Healthy Homes scheme has linked health with housing quality, through a GP referral scheme. Funding from Scottish Power enables GPs across the city to refer vulnerable patients at risk of ill health due to poor housing or fuel poverty, to the Healthy Homes scheme, which can support them in accessing free or insulation measures and grants for heating. http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2013-01-29-Liverpool-makes-direct-link-between-health-and-housing-with-GP-referral-scheme
Harriet then brought two case studies about community engagement, from the Eden Project. (two projects, 10 points each = 20 points). Not exactly community energy, but definitely interesting to learn from.
Imaginary journeys: This was a project with artists in various communities in Cornwall, where each created a different project around the theme of imaginary journeys.
These were very varied, so I will describe one here: “We were unable to find premises in Liskeard so the team turned this challenge into a strength by becoming itinerant. They became the Liskeard Travelling Post Ladies, travelling around the town on their bikes collecting and delivering specially commissioned mail to different parts of the community. At the community centre they gathered memories and turned them into postcards, at school children made ‘Parcels of hope’ containing gifts. These parcels were then delivered to the elders of St Austell, who respond with ‘Letters of memory’. “
21st century living project: This was a project with 100 nationally representative families, who had the challenge of making their lifestyles more sustainable over a period of 12 months. Each family had an energy audit of their home, 61 of them had thermal images of their house, and each one had a £500 grant to spend on making their waste, water or energy use more efficient. For many of those households, the £500 seed was enough to start them off on a journey which led to making much bigger total investments over the 12 months. It was interesting to compare this with the models of behaviour change we were discussing the previous week, including the theory that some of our behaviour is based on what we did last time – so making that initial investment gets that first action to happen. This relates to theories about habit, identity and self-efficacy.
Yael brought a really interesting case study of a failure analysis from Israel. 10 points for the case study, and 5 points for coming for the first time. This was a project where a community development social enterprise wanted to install solar PV on roofs owned by the local authority. A partnership had been agreed between the two, which included a substantial share of the income going to the local authority, and the remaining profit being used for community development projects. However, it was challenged by the national government, and went to court. In the first instance, the court suggested some changes to the governance structure, which were accepted, and allowed the project to continue. However, the case was taken to appeal, and the government won in disallowing the project. This was on the grounds that by not going through a competitive procurement process the local authority was not getting the best deal possible for its community. This is despite the fact that it is highly unlikely that any commercial company would have provided such good terms and reinvestment into the community, and there was no other community social enterprise with a similar role.It is interesting to compare this case with Bristol, where the city council has been very careful to ensure that its plans for allowing community energy groups to install solar PV on roofs that it owns are legally watertight.
The political context in the UK is also different, where the national government has published a community energy strategy encouraging partnership between community energy groups and local authorities, and where the minister has written letters to each local authority encouraging this. It seems that in Israel the government does not support or understand social enterprise or cooperatives in the same way.