Next Generation fund awards almost £500k to five community energy projects across England

Community groups with bright ideas for energy innovation have been awarded almost £500,000 from Power to Change’s Next Generation Fund.

The schemes, which include community smart lighting, harvesting solar power to charge electric vehicles, and a dedicated energy saving service for local schools, are the first five to be awarded grants thanks to a pioneering new fund dedicated to supporting community led energy innovation. Next Generation, funded by the independent trust Power to Change, aims to identify and support genuinely sustainable, financially viable and innovative community businesses focused on environmental innovation.

The fund is about to close its second round of applications on 15 September but there’s still time for community groups with bold ideas to apply.

Will Walker, Programme Manager in charge of energy at Power to Change said: “We believe more communities should be able to generate their own energy and reinvest the profits to benefit local people. Not only are we supporting these bold ideas, we will ensure all the materials and resources emerging from this programme will be made public. We want the whole community energy sector, industry and policy makers to demonstrate how and why community energy businesses should be central to the energy system transformation.”

The five groups awarded funding are spread across England, and trialling business models that range from a school focused energy service company, to community owned solar PV linked to electric vehicle (EV) charging points.

  • Chester Community Energy is trialling a model that finances the upfront costs of LED-lighting installations for small community buildings, enabling community groups to repay the investment through the savings on their electricity bills.
  • Lockleaze Energy Partnership (Bristol) are developing a community solar model that enables the local community to own and operate a 1 megawatt cluster of solar panels on 300 roofs in the city to create a new business model for post-subsidy rooftop solar schemes.
  • Nadder Community Energy (Wiltshire) are exploring a community electric car club in a rural community where there is a high reliance on cars for short journeys. Their electric car club could generate savings for householders as well as benefits for the environment.
  • Brighton Energy are exploring the opportunities for a transport scheme in the urban setting of Brighton where locally generated solar power could supply electric community transport and public EV chargers.
  • Green Fox Community Energy (Leicester) are partnering with a local academy trust to supply clean, locally generated heat, electricity and energy services through a range of low carbon technologies and by improving the schools energy efficiency through a model that they hope will eventually be scaled-out across Leicestershire and beyond.

There are two rounds of applications. These first five groups were selected from the first round to move forward into the Research and Development stage. The next five groups will be selected in the second application round which closes at midnight on 15th September 2019.

Keith Hempshall, Centre for Sustainable Energy, ‘We are excited by the opportunity that Next Generation represents for communities across the UK to play a full role in delivering climate emergency objectives and creating a future energy system that is more democratic, decentralised and decarbonised’.

Application details can be found here: www.next-generation.org.uk/grants

Notes to Editor

Next Generation is delivered by a multi-disciplinary consortium: the Centre for Sustainable Energy (lead partner), Everoze Partners, Low Carbon Hub, Cooperatives UK, Cooperative Futures, Social and Sustainable Capital, and SFW Communications. [https://www.next-generation.org.uk/partners]

Power to Change is an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses in England. It works with community businesses to revive local assets, protect the services people rely on, and address local needs. Its endowment came from the Big Lottery Fund in 2015. [powertochange.org.uk]

Centre for Sustainable Energy is a Bristol-based independent national charity (298740) that seeks to change the way people think and act about energy. It does this by managing innovative energy projects, training and supporting others to act, undertaking research and policy analysis and giving energy advice. [cse.org.uk]

Next Generation is being managed by the Centre for Sustainable Energy on behalf of Power to Change and other Next Generation project partners. [https://www.next-generation.org.uk/partners]