By Ingrid Wadman
The latest Bristol Energy Network meeting was held at Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC), an arts organisation and charity contributing to communities with projects using art and digital technologies. During the meeting, organisations across Bristol presented projects, all related to energy, with focus areas mainly in Easton and West Knowle. The projects were collectively aiming to engage with communities to reduce energy waste and consumption by informing inhabitants and providing strategies to address common issues.
A workshop concluded the meeting, in which we discussed future ideas for projects at the scale of the city, the community and the home. A few examples of ideas that were brought up at a city scale were locally owned off-grid energy infrastructure, different models for housing and rental ownership, cleaner transport options and locally grown food.
On a community level, ideas focused on communal spaces as a tool to bring neighbours together, as well as the potential of teaching energy efficiency at schools to impact families.
Domestically, solar power alternatives and carbon neutral Christmas lights were discussed, as well as the potential of smart meters and other methods of providing a more user friendly way of informing inhabitants of their energy consumption.
Thanks to all of you who came along to the Bristol Energy Network meeting and shared your ideas and experiences of how to develop and run community energy projects!
Below follows a summary of some of the projects that were presented.
3e Houses, by KWMC (Apr 2012 – May 2013)
3e Houses was an EU funded project with the aim to tackle fuel poverty by helping council tenants to reduce their energy consumption. A goal was set to reduce energy and gas usage by 20% within a year. In the project, 100 homes in Knowle West and central Bristol were given assistance to monitor the use of energy and gas. Using touch screen tablets to provide an easy way of looking at the data, they were able to identify where they were using and spending the most.
SoLa Bristol, by KWMC (Dec 2011 – Jan 2016)
The SoLa Bristol project supported 26 homes, 5 schools and an office block in Knowle West with solar PV panels fitted to their roofs. The solar panels were connected to a battery which stored energy during the day, to be used at night. The energy savings were monitored and displayed on touchscreen tablets provided in the beginning of the project.
Dampbusters, by KWMC (2015 – ongoing)
The project, to tackle the issue of damp homes, was enabled by The Bristol Approach to citizen sensing, a framework encouraging the use of new smart technology in communities that are at risk of being excluded. The project developed the Frogbox, containing a sensor which measures temperature and humidity. The Frogbox would be placed in people’s homes, together with some green papers functioning as a diary for damp-intensive activities, such as washing or cooking.
The aspiration for the project is to create an open platform for sharing damp knowledge in communities and to run sessions on how to make sensors yourself. The sensors might even be developed to measure the effect of damp homes on health.
Draft proofing and Switching campaign, by RE:Work (ongoing)
Another charity attending the meeting was RE:Work, whose mission is to relieve poverty among residents of southern Bristol and to provide training in various skills that support people into gaining paid employment. Currently implemented in 50 homes in West Knowles, RE:Work discussed a project that aims to draft proof homes and advise people on how to switch to a better energy deal.
Chariot, by Centre for Sustainable Energy (Oct 2014 – ongoing)
The Chariot project collects energy-use data from vulnerable households in order to give more specific advice on how to save energy. This is done by the use of sensors and smart meters measuring damp, internal and external temperature, energy usage and light levels.
The REPLICATE Project, by Connecting Bristol (Feb 2016 – Jan 2021)
The REPLICATE project is an EU funded project with the aim to use new innovative technology to improve the city environment and looking at energy, mobility and information and communication technology. Ashley, Easton and Lawrence hill are the focus areas since it was possible to build on previous projects in these areas.
The CHEESE Project, by Bristol Energy Network (2015 – ongoing)
The CHEESE project aims to reduce domestic heat losses by using thermal imaging technology. In the project, homes are surveyed with thermal technology to find drafts and areas where heat is escaping. Results are available online at heatview.co.uk, where you can have a look at your own house to see if heat is being lost. With more funding recently received, the project will double its scale in winter 2017/18 and survey over 400 homes.
The CHOICES project, by Owen Square Community Energy (2015 – 2016)
The CHOICES project installed a low carbon CHOICES energy centre in Owen Square Park in Easton, to supply heat and power to two community buildings, with plans of further extension.
About the author
I’m a MSc student studying environmental policy and management at University of Bristol and I will be posting about activities in Bristol Energy Network, as a way to spread the word about community energy projects. I’m sure there are people out there who would be interested in getting involved in projects and I hope this blog will bring some inspiration to you.