City Leap and Bristol Energy Network open meeting update

By Liz Barling from Keynsham Community Energy

City Leap is an ambitious project to make Bristol a zero-carbon, smart energy city by 2030. Through a series of energy and infrastructure investment opportunities it aims to create a healthier and fairer city, create jobs, decarbonise the city and empower residents to take their future into their own hands.

Currently, Bristol City Council is running a commercial competition for a 10-year delivery partner for City Leap, and it has specified that the winning bidder must show social value. Bristol Energy Network has set up a steering group with other civil society organisations in the city to help shape the social value aspect of City Leap, which centres on engagement and participation.

The steering group is developing a community-led proposition that they hope Bristol City Council and the bidders will support. The details are still being worked out, but are likely to include ways to financially support community-led projects from development to delivery, as well as a community benefit fund and investment opportunities for local residents.

Achieving net zero carbon by 2030 will require the same sort of investment in low-carbon projects in the wider area surrounding Bristol. This means that City Leap will affect community energy groups in the wider Bristol region as well as within the city. It’s reassuring that Bristol Energy Network is working  to ensure that community is at the heart of City Leap, and Keynsham Community Energy will be watching the development of City Leap with great interest!

The current Coronavirus situation means that some of BEN’s work has to be on hold, but staff and volunteers are working hard in the background on a number of projects and initiatives. The organisation has sent out a survey to members to find out what they want from BEN in terms of support.

Staff have been working hard in lockdown to develop the Energy Champions programme, and some Champions have been volunteering by inputting Energy Pledges to BEN’s database. Community Energy groups are urged to encourage people to contact the Warm Homes Advice and Money (WHAM) helpline if they’re struggling with their household bills in these uncertain times.

The FUTUREPROOF project is helping people to find good domestic builders who understand and can deliver energy efficiency work. BEN is analysing the results of a survey of householders, which will shape the ongoing project.

Bristol Energy Ltd is working with BEN to develop ways for householders to access finance for a CHEESE energy efficiency survey. A pilot programme was due to begin imminently but is now on hold due to the lockdown. Bristol Energy and BEN are also looking at how community energy groups could benefit from opportunities around electric vehicle charging, and how to deliver energy savings to community buildings

In funding news, Western Power Distribution have made funds available of up to £1k for community groups to support their communities during the COVID-19 crisis.

In member news, Lockleaze Loves Solar is working on a way to sell renewable energy to householders at wholesale (rather than retail) prices, saving a lot of money.

Friends of the Earth is running a campaign to encourage people to write to their MP to urge them to turn the economic recovery from COVID-19 into an opportunity to reduce carbon.

Ambition Lawrence Weston’s work on delivering England’s only community owned (and largest) wind turbine is making real progress. It is currently in the planning process, and the project managers are exploring options for intermediate finance. Anyone who would like to lodge their support to the planners can do so via the Bristol City Council planning portal.

Greater Fishponds Energy Group has been awarded a library grant of £1k for a library display board, which will promote zero carbon solutions and carbon saving measures. The project is on hold due to lockdown, but the board will be installed as soon possible.