It was pretty perfect timing, really. There I was, taking notes in BEN’s September Open Meeting, when a BBC article popped up. “Switching to renewable energy could save trillions – study”, it said. Mind-boggling figure, trillions. How could you possibly make up that amount of money? And then I realised: through things like our Open Meeting. People coming together, talking about community energy, and actually making it happen in real life. That’s how.
There were 35 people in total at Tuesday’s meeting, and we want to say a big thank you to everyone who took the time out to come. Judging by how the halloumi and falafel wraps went, people seemed to enjoy themselves! We had updates from Ambition Lawrence Weston, Owen Square Community Energy and the C.H.E.E.S.E. Project. It was also a real pleasure to co-host with Greater Fishponds Energy Group, too. Jim Phillips gave a great talk on why community energy groups are worth bothering with. They know their communities better than the government or companies do, can help in most situations and signpost when they can’t (for example to the WHAM project we’re involved in), are able to deliver community-transforming energy projects (like the huge wind turbine in Avonmouth), and champion the little changes that add up to one big difference (such as draught-proofing and insulation).
One thing we pride ourselves on at BEN is our strong relationships with other groups, organisations, and city stakeholders. We have a good relationship with Bristol City Council, and it was fantastic to have two officers come and share with us as well. Dan Lewin is a Community Development Officer working in Frome Vale ward, and gave us more information about the Community Resilience Fund. It’s a £4m funding pot specifically for capital projects (physical building or modifications) in Bristol’s poorest areas. Sam explained that it isn’t for delivering projects or paying wages, but it can be used for things like making buildings more accessible, or more environmentally friendly. Could your road or community organisation do with some of that money?
We also heard from James Sterling on a topic that’s been high on the Community Energy agenda: City Leap. If you haven’t heard of it, City Leap is a £1bn joint partnership between Bristol City Council and Ameresco, an American company specialising in renewable energy. The aim is to significantly decarbonise Bristol by 2050 through things like heat pumps, draughtproofing and insulation at scale, and solar. Expect to see a lot happening quickly; City Leap is spending £420m on decarbonisation projects in the first five years. A group of Community Energy groups, including Bristol Energy Network, have come together to make sure community energy is included in City Leap. We look forward to getting the final details at our AGM in November!