This project will investigate the feasibility of bringing a hydro scheme into community ownership. The business case will be developed using the ‘Energy Local’ model which helps communities get more value from small-scale renewable generation by using the electricity locally.
The role of Electricity North West
Following the launch of our community energy strategy last year, we announced the Powering our Communities Fund to support projects that put community and local energy at the heart of communities. In particular, the fund is intended for projects that demonstrate how they can engage communities in energy issues; support vulnerable customers and/or reduce fuel poverty; or deliver new ways of working, fit for a smart, flexible low carbon grid.
The fund will provide some much needed resources into the development of community energy projects across the region and will help increase awareness and understanding of the benefits and possibilities that community energy can bring. A total of six successful projects received a share of £71,000, announced in March 2019.
What is community energy and how does this project fit the bill?
We see community energy as community-led projects or initiatives to reduce, manage, generate or purchase energy. Community energy projects focus on engagement and benefits to the local area and communities.
Alston Moor’s Energy Local project aims to benefit the local community with the purchase of a local hydro scheme. This will reduce the cost of the power generated for the local community and ensure the community-owned generator is paid a fair price for the energy it produces. This will help to generate and retain investment within the local community and help the fuel poor.
Organisation behind the project
Based in north Cumbria, Alston Moor Community Energy (AMCE) is a community benefit society set up to enable the community to have greater control of its energy systems, lower fuel bills for local residents and increase the generation of low carbon, renewable energy.
Background and detailed description of the project
AMCE has been offered the chance to buy a 350kW hydro scheme at Nenthead from its current owners, Nenthead Mines Hydro Power Limited.
Building on previous technical and financial assessments, this project will use the Energy Local model to investigate whether the scheme could be financially viable for community investment. Energy Local enables local residents to join a co-operative to buy local power at lower prices and for the local generator to gain greater income, an approach which has already been trialled successfully in Wales. While typical domestic electricity prices are 17 - 18p/kWh, Nenthead Hydro currently receives approximately 5p/kWh for sales to a supplier.
This project will determine whether this approach could provide enough income to pay for the purchase of the hydro scheme through a community share offer, its operating costs and the cost of running the Energy Local scheme.
Based on the electricity demand from the number of homes in Alston Moor (around 1,000), it is estimated that Nenthead Hydro could generate enough power to meet 10% of the current demand. Additional power not generated locally would be sold by a supplier, Co-operative Energy, using a time-of-use tariff. AMCE will work with householders to manage demand to match local generation to achieve maximum financial benefit for the scheme.
The project will deliver a number of benefits to the local community. It will set up a mechanism to engage the local population in community-owned energy, including addressing energy efficiency and demand management.
It will reduce net electricity costs to local customers in an area where over 20% of households are classed as fuel poor and almost 50% are off-gas, many being reliant on electricity for heating.
The scheme will create a small amount of local employment in managing the operation of the co-operative, including providing energy efficiency advice to customers.
In the longer term, it is hoped that demonstrating the benefits of Energy Local, could lead to the development of more schemes, enabling new generation and carbon savings. Similarly, the input of more local revenue will provide more support and long-term management of the hydro scheme which could potentially increase its current generation.
To deliver the Energy Local project, Alston Moor Community Energy will be working with a number of partners including:
- Energy Local Community Interest Company (CIC) Limited – a small, non-profit, organisation set up to show how local communities and small-scale renewables can get better value from the electricity market by working together. Energy Local will support AMCE and CAfS to develop a Cumbrian Energy Local model; they will train CAfS to become the delivery organisation and support the development of the local co-operative;
- Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS) – Cumbria's climate change and sustainability organisation who campaign to empower and enable people, communities and businesses to live and work more sustainably by sharing knowledge, practice, skills, networks and practical experience; CAfS will act in an adviser role, building on existing expertise and outreach in Cumbria and developing capacity to replicate the model in Cumbria;
- Quantum Strategy & Technology – an experienced business consultancy which will provide input to the business model, then act as a voluntary observer to understand the process and help share learning across the North West.
Where to go for further information
For more information on our community and local energy strategy visit our strategy page, or visit www.alstonmoorcommunityenergy.co.uk to find out more about the work of Alston Moor Community Energy.