Power to the People: minutes from BEN meeting 17th November 2011


·      The Converging World presentation, by Wendy Stephenson, CEO

·      Green Doors update, by Dan Weisselberg

·      Bristol Energy Coop and Feed In Tariff update, by Andy O'Brien

·      Community Group, and Network Partners updates and plans

·      Network Discussions: Is price in PV likely to reduce soon?Does the use Voltage Optimisation/Voltage Management (reducing voltage) increase energy efficiency in the domestic environment?


1. The Converging World (TCW) presentation, by Wendy Stephenson, CEO

TCW operate in 2 communities, India and UK, and have 2 large wind turbines operating in India.

They aim to set up energy efficiency and renewables projects involving the local communities.

Info available on http://www.theconvergingworld.org/

They are inviting applications for a Buzz bank bond by 30 Dec, which earns 6% interest and is repaid after 5 years.

This would fund construction of 2 more medium wind turbines in India.

They are also selling Xmas Gift Vouchers.

2. Green Doors update, by Dan Weisselberg

Green Doors aims to 'normalise retrofitting'. http://www.bristolgreendoors.org/

Next event is 17-18 Mar 2012, and needs homes to sign up by 16 Dec to get map published in new year.35 homes are so far signed up but more are needed across the city.

This year more homes demonstrating energy bill reduction by 'living smart' are wanted, without necessarily having costly insulation or renewables schemes. Also houses willing to hold demonstrations of simple and very cost effective techniques like draft-proofing, which are relevant to all but will be particularly helpful in areas where take-up of longer pay-back measures is likely to be lower.

This year there is also a Bath event, and possibly houses in Keynsham, Thornbury etc. which could be promoted along with the Bristol event.

There will not be 'community hubs' on the day, but they are very keen for community groups to be involved in promotion of the event.

Iris from Knowle West said how hard it was to engage homes in the area in larger measures. Dan said how engaging with builders and colleges would help. Kellaway Building Supplies are on board, and Green Doors is partnering with the Federation of Master Builders.

It was suggested that circulating a Draft Map could be very helpful to encourage a few more signups. Maybe a google map that people could add things to would be good.

Educational events in the week leading up to the event could also be promoted. Morgan Griffin of CSE said they might be able to do some events for promotion as part of the week or weekend.

Ian Baker of Sustainable Bishopston mentioned how it would be helpful to engage older people. Promoting the charity Care and Repair Bristol was mentioned as way to help and engage older and more vulnerable groups of people in energy saving.


3. Bristol Energy Coop update, by Andy O'Brien

In the light of the uncertainty of the future of the feed in tariff for Solar PV which is currently undergoing a government consultation, they feel it would not be right to launch their share offer until that is settled.

They have made some progress in finding community buildings and applying for planning permission, and still hope to proceed if it is financially viable after the review.

In the mean time they are looking at wind projects that are more cost effective today. They are also looking into advising on Green Deal measures and considering other ways to proceed.


4. Group updates:

Eastern Energy Group are helping Easton Community Centre to become more energy efficient and are getting heating controls for  their community building to reduce wasted energy. Also Easton Christian Family Centre a local church is getting solar PV under current FIT levels just in the nick of time. (Easton.energy.group@gmail.com)

Bedminster Energy Group are looking for more involvement in a draft-busting day on 21 Jan, and also showing a DVD in the evening – see http://sites.google.com/site/bedminsterenergy/news-and-events

Sustainable Bishopston has successfully completed a Make Your Home Eco course ran by Martin Fodor and Maddy Longhurst earlier in the year and look forward to working on the Green Doors 2012.

Montpelier Energy Group is back in action – Brunwin is back after time off with a young baby.

Transition Keynsham have a monthly stall at a farmers market for which they pay £10 and find it very useful to have a regular presence see Transition Keynsham for their next event.

Bristol Energy Network has an energy exhibition at Create Centre discussing energy topics and a map showing energy community groups across Bristol. The exhibition will be used at events in the city – some or all the display materials can be borrowed on request by community groups who may wish to promote their own group. Contact Mark Leach (mark.leach@bristol.gov.uk)

 It was suggested that large retailers like Tescos might provide space to reach new audiences. Also empty shops could sometimes be used. Further Bristol Energy Network events with the display in public places could be useful – Cabot Circus and Broadmead were mentioned – involving people from community groups to talk to people.

Bristol Volunteers Get Energy project from CSE continues successfully, see http://www.cse.org.uk/volunteers .There are some upcoming community courses on various energy saving topics, and these can also be run on-site for community groups with at least 6 people committed to doing the courses.


The Demand Energy Equality: build your own solar panel courses starting January 2012 dates TBC.

Social enterprise recycles monocrystalline solar cells which are manufactured in China and broken in transport to solar panel assemblers in Europe. The social enterprise works on a workshop skill share format where participants build their own solar panel, gaining the skills to be able to access the technology with the benefits of reduced costs and increased likelihood of household energy reduction through education of the technology. The objectives of the project are:

  1. To reduce the cost of solar panels and enable low income households to gain access to empowering solar PV technology as there is a growing divergence between those who can afford renewable power.
  2. To utilise the potential these technologies offer in reducing household energy demand. Energy demand reduction is possible when people have a greater understanding and relationship with these technologies.

Please see www.demandenergyequality.org  and www.peoplefund.it/demand-energy-equality


The Converging Worlds Community Hub webpage update coming soon watch this space..

The community hub is an online tool to complement The Converging World's community energy programme. It helps you to collect data on energy usage, renewable energy projects and demand reduction and display this information in an intuitive and simple way.

Members of your community can sign up and register their own projects whether they are just an idea or already operating. Community groups get an overview of what's happening in their community – group projects for bulk-buy discounts and count the savings against their baseline energy usage.

See page link for more details http://hub.theconvergingworld.org/


5. Discussions topics discussed at meeting revised by Daniel Quiggin and Daniel Narayanan Bristol Energy Network’s Technical Advisors:

·      Is price in PV likely to reduce soon?

·      Does the use Voltage Optimisation/Voltage Management (reducing voltage) increase energy efficiency in the domestic environment?


Generally it was felt that with FITs likely to be reduced and combined with the fact of technology advances on the horizon PV prices are also likely to fall with the expectation that the £1 per watt is coming. However be mindful about these claims as these are the prices paid by wholesalers and not those companies further up the supply chain, currently not those at the bottom. At the moment wholesalers who supply installers are charging installers around £1.09. Then the installer has costs that have to be added onto this before the household gets their price. In effect the industry is saying that with bankruptcies and increased competition as the FITs are rolled back then prices are likely to come down as companies compete to stay alive, but it is unknown yet if it will go the other way.

One new solar technology mentioned was Hybrid PV/Thermal panels which combine solar thermal and solar PV. Solar PV heats up an attached a heat sink at the bottom of the PV unit. This increases the efficiency of the solar PV by removing unwanted heat such that the electrical resistance of the solar PV is reduced.

This is a new technology which can be very expensive, and not all of the claims made by companies on their efficiency have been substantiated so be wary of excessive claims.

NB: It is important to remember that panels cannot exceed the relative power of sunshine "The power of raw sunshine at midday on a cloudless day is 1000Wper square metre..(lots of corrections for seasons, cloud cover, tilt between land and sun, that's its not midday all the time!,). the average raw power of sunshine per square metre of south-facing roof in Britain is roughly 110W/m2, and the average raw power of sunshine per square metre of flat ground is
roughly 100W/m2." (David Mackay) and this can be used for growing food, solar pv, solar thermal etc

However if you’re looking for a good example of this technology and would like a more detailed description please see the following link: http://www.newformenergy.com/photovoltaic-thermal

But in the meantime remember that free / low cost things already exist on the market (less exciting using less heating, putting in draught proofing and so on) are very cost effective! If you spend £60 on draught-proofing, you might expect it to last 10 years and save c. 600kWh per year (1p per kWh)…Save before you Generate….

Voltage optimisation

Voltage optimisation was mentioned for saving electricity, but it was pointed out that for home use where the biggest uses were water and space heating it does not work – a Carbon Trust report was referenced.

“Voltage ManagementThis carbon trust report gives a good amount of info on VM. VM is not really suitable for homeowners, who will see negligible, if any, reduction in energy use. The key thing in a household is that electricity used in a heating element (kettle, oven, washing machine, electric shower) will NOT decrease if you reduce the voltage – it will just take longer to reach the same temperature. The only way to reduce the energy consumed on these devices is to reduce the target temperature. This isn't possible in most kettles (!), and in an oven you need certain temps to do certain things. A Joule is a Joule is a Joule – regardless of whether it's delivered at 1 volt or 240 volts. There may be some minimal savings available on motors / pumps – the CT document gives good guidance here.” Daniel Narayanan

 “VM devise will optimise the voltage used by an appliance, so say a kettle could be boiled at 200 volt rather than 240. but only a small but negligible saving will be made in the power and energy consumed because the current the devise uses will go up in accordance total here is a simple equation power = voltage x current. The main saving in energy consumption that will benefit a home will be due to the devise reducing its output slightly, so lights will be dimmer or electric shower slightly cooler. Devises are great but not in the replacement of people becoming aware of consumption of energy. Also be aware that voltage optimisation is also about reducing things called – reactive power, harmonics, voltage flicker etc back onto the grid. This aids the Distribution Network Operators not the home. Voltage optimisation makes sense for large commercial entities as their equipment will function that much more efficiently such that its lifetime is extended and maintenance is reduced.” Daniel Quiggin

For further discussion on these topics please see our Forum.