A few members and supporters have been in touch asking how the energy crisis has impacted the coop. In this quick Q&A we cover some of the financial and strategic impacts of the energy crisis.
At Bristol Energy Coop, we generate electricity from renewable energy. Most of our electricity sales are from the two solar farms at Lawrence Weston and Puriton. At both sites we are locked into year-long contracts where we have agreed a fixed price. This means we have not seen an increase in revenue yet.
Looking ahead, the increase in energy prices has allowed us to negotiate contracts for later years with higher prices than the current contracts. This means our revenue will increase in the near future.
Bristol Energy Coop is a Community Benefit Society and we are administered by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). One of the rules the FCA imposes on us is that we cannot provide our investors with a higher rate of interest than we had originally promised them. Instead, we have to use any additional revenue to advance our primary aims. This means we’ll use any extra monies to develop more renewable energy / energy efficiency schemes and put extra money into the Megawatt Community Energy Fund, which is being used largely on energy efficiency and carbon reduction.
Tackling energy efficiency has to be a national priority, particularly for homes who are experiencing or at risk of fuel poverty.
Our feeling is that insulation should be done on a whole-street scale and involve multiple partners. Establishing a viable solution for this is part of our current work stream, and we hope to have made some tangible progress on this in the next 12 months.
In the meantime, we are delighted to see our Megawatt Community Energy Fund being used to develop local energy efficiency and carbon reduction schemes. Groups such as Re:Work are using the grant money to set up a tool library and workshops to teach residents how to reduce drafts at home with low cost DIY measures. See more examples here of where this grant money goes.
It’s deeply distressing to see the health and psychological impacts of fuel poverty. The NEA estimates around 6.5million households are in the grip of fuel poverty right now. That’s households, not people.
Whilst we and others continue to lobby government to step up and create a better plan for energy efficiency, we also feel a duty to support those in our nearby networks.
At this year’s AGM we will put forward a resolution to provide extra funding for fuel poverty and energy advice support in Bristol. This is in addition to the Megawatt Community Energy grants and the funds that we give to Ambition Lawrence Weston each year.
We’re also continuing to seek out solar opportunities on community buildings, in order to offer indirect support to vulnerable families. 12 of our existing solar rooftop installations are on community-focussed buildings. These hubs offer a place for all members of the community to come together; whether it be for sport, for arts, for using a computer, or just for a cup of tea. The solar panels on these rooftops can offer community centres some protection from bill spikes, and allow these hubs to invest in their vital support services.
The joint impact of the climate crisis and energy crisis has focussed our minds on doing all we can to reduce carbon at a greater speed.
Renewable energy is now multiple times cheaper than fossils fuels, and we have plenty of it available around the UK. This means renewables can simultaneously bring down energy prices and increase energy security.
Our strategy has shifted to scale up what we’re doing. In recent months we have invested more resources on project finding. We’re looking for some larger rooftops, like the 1MW array at Bottle Yard Studios. To support this growth we are looking to increase the size of our team, and find new funding streams.
We’re confident we can deliver on this. Whilst UK energy policy is sadly still muddling around in fossil fuels, we’re getting clear signals that the finance is there for renewable energy projects.
We acknowledge that scaling up at our cooperative is small fry compared to a large commercial developers. Nevertheless, the individual and collective contribution of community energy groups like ours is crucial for a fair and effective energy transition.
If you’d like to hear more about our plans for the coming year, please do attend the upcoming AGM.