UK’s most inspiring model for community energy
HJ Fantaskis | 01.10.12
Earlier in September, on an typically British (overcast) Friday, Juliet Davenport (CEO of Good Energy) and Andy Atkins (CEO of Friends of the Earth) toured Westmill, one of the most inspiring examples of community-owned energy projects in the UK.
Westmill was the very first 100% community-owned scheme in the UK and it combines wind and solar to provide more than 11MW of energy on one site. Co-operatives, such as Westmill, provide inspiration and a replicable model for other communities, and community-owned energy is a growing sector.
Westmill, owned exclusively by the community, is a combined wind and solar farm and has the capacity to generate 10MWs of electricity per annum. The wind farm alone produces pollution-free electricity for over 2500 average homes and helps reduce carbon emissions. It has been led by the relentlessly energetic activist and local farmer, Adam Twine, and it has taken more than ten years to come together, requiring an enormous amount of passion and commitment.
On the impact that the Co-Operatives are having on a national scale Juliet says, 'In Germany, over 65% of renewable energy is owned by individuals or communities; compare that with the UK's 10% ownership, and it's clear that we've a lot of catching up to do.'
Now, projects like Westmill are under threat. The government's Electricity Market Reform (EMR) could stunt the growth of community-owned, decentralised energy projects. The current proposals for EMR, which are about encouraging investment in generation for medium- and large- scale renewables projects, show an alarming lack of emphasis on decentralisation and the potential investment that could be attracted by taking a more open approach to the energy market.
Juliet and Andy's visit was part of the Clean British Energy Campaign, led by Friends of the Earth, supported by Good Energy and Ecotricity. The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the potential of renewable energy to power the UK and to ask people to sign their name to a petition to to ask Ed Davey to recognise that potential and ensure that de-centralised energy is a reality across the UK.
Juliet of Good Energy says, 'Westmill Wind and Solar Co-operative is generating more than just kilowatts. It’s also empowering people by offering them a stake in their future. It's not easy to get people enthusiastic about energy, but Co-operatives are proving very popular with local communities. We need to see more community energy schemes like this sprouting up all over the UK.'
Background on Project Westmill
The Westmill Farm was the first wind farm co-operative in the South of England, giving local people an opportunity to invest in the production of renewable energy. Today, it produces 6.5MW of electricity. The success and popularity of the project amongst the local community, co-operating and investing in a decentralised energy supply, led to plans for the Westmill Solar Co-Operative. Established in March 2011, with intentions of enabling community ownership of a 5MW solar park, the shares offered to the locals was met with huge enthusiasm, and together they raised the necessary £4million in a mere 8 weeks.
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