A successful night for Wales at the Community Energy Awards

A successful night for Wales at the Community Energy Awards

Community Energy Wales and Community Energy England teamed up this Saturday to celebrate the achievements made in the Community Energy sector over the last 12 months, by holding the 2016 Community Energy Awards in Oxford.

A panel of judges had the unenviable task of selecting the winners from a shortlist of high calibre nominees.  The large numbers of nominations demonstrated the resilience and motivation that exists across both countries to deliver clean, renewable, local and democratically owned energy  to our communities.

It was a successful night for all those involved but Wales in particular continued to punch above its weight with 5 projects shortlisted, 2 of which won their category with another being highly commended.  Over the last 3 years in Wales, more than £5 million has been invested in Community-Owned Renewables through community energy share schemes, an outstanding achievement for such a small country – demonstrating the growing interest in this area.

Awel Coop, a community owned windfarm in the Upper Swansea Valley won the Community Renewable Energy Project Award – for the most commendable sustainable electricity generation project undertaken by a community group, which was sponsored by The Naturesave Trust and Insurance.  It is testament to their strong will and tenacity that this project is now being built and will be the largest Community Energy Project in Wales once complete. Dan McCallum, Director of Awel Coop said “We’re really honoured by this Award and would like to thank all our existing members for their support, and encourage more to join us.”

Ynni Anafon Energy, a hydro-electric scheme in the Anafon Valley of North Wales received a Commendation In the same category. It was conceived by the Directors of the Abergwyngregyn Regeneration Company (ARC), along with Keith Jones from the National Trust – the main landowner in the Anafon Valley. Hywel Thomas, Director of Ynni Anafon Energy said, “We are very honoured to receive the Commendation for the second year running. We must acknowledge all of the hard work that the volunteers put in. The key to success is knowing what you want, and going for it – Bloody Mindedness. If you get no as an answer, ask the question in a different way.”

Cilgwyn Community narrowly missed out on an award. The village group has a shared electric car powered by shared renewables, with plans for battery storage, smart controls and another car for the community.

One of the most exciting moments of the night came when Cyd Ynni fought off stiff competition, winning the Community Energy Collaboration Award, for the most commendable collaboration between community, commercial, public and third sector partners.

Cyd Ynni (Energy Together) is a partnership of community energy practitioners developing a creative new business model, in which community households gain a direct benefit from their local hydro power projects – the first of its’ kind in Wales, it is challenging the conventional way we sell energy. Keith Jones, who is also a Director of Cyd Ynni, said it “was developed as a network to deliver multiple benefits to the community because we realised, as volunteers our capacity for opportunity was limited”.

Participants form an ‘Energy Club’ and each participant has a smart meter to show when they are using power and how much: residents pay 7p/kwh when the hydro is operating – the hydro gets more income while participants get lower bills, a win-win situation. They are currently recruiting around 100 households to be a part of the first trial.

Swansea City & County Council were short listed for the Local Authority Partner Award, sponsored by Northern Powergrid, for the Local Authority which has done most to help community energy organisations through partnering, investing or other support.

Swansea City & County Council established the Swansea Community Energy & Enterprise Scheme (SCEES), a co-operative to manage community-owned renewable energy installations in the most deprived areas of Swansea. The Council is working in collaboration with members of the community, building capacity and confidence until the group is able to operate independently. Chris Small of SCEES, said they “are honoured to have had recognition with this nomination, working alongside local people has been critical in overcoming significant hurdles.” It is certainly one to watch in the near future.

Congratulations to all Winners, Nominees and their Communities. To see the full list of winners and nominees, please click here.

The Community Energy sector in general, is perhaps the biggest winner on the night. The individual successes of each project, all with bigger plans in the  pipeline, makes for a healthy and optimistic future for energy generation and supply at a local level.  It demonstrates that in spite of the challenges the sector faces from changes to government policy that there is the strength, resolve, entrepreneurialism and determination to see this transition to a more accountable, democratic and sustainable energy system.

As good as each project is individually, the sector will not be successful with just a single, albeit sustainable community working alone, it requires a network of sustainable communities all working together towards a shared goal of locally owned, renewable and clean energy for all. As every community has different energy requirements and production capabilities, local innovators must coordinate with local investors to form inclusive community-based initiatives.

It’s happening – Communities are taking back control of our energy system. Be a part of it.