NCS Newsletter August 2021

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Welcome to the NCS Newsletter keeping members and supporters up to date with projects, meetings, and events of interest to community energy!

Community Renewal Fund

We are still awaiting the final decision on our funding bid to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. As featured in our last Newsletter, NCS partnered with RenEnergy to submit a funding bid to the Community Renewal Fund (CRF) to carry out a study on the feasibility of “Solar Mobility Hubs”. See the June Newsletter for more information about the bid.

RenEnergy Solar Carport, Norwich

Smart local energy systems: unlocking net zero

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) recently ran a webinar series on Smart Local Energy Systems (SLES).

In case you aren’t sure what a ‘smart local energy system’ is, don’t worry it isn’t a case of a one size fits all definition. Essentially it involves the intelligent networking of distributed energy assets, integrated around energy users and generators in a localised geographic area (as opposed to a system on a regional, national or international scale). Distributed energy assets, or DERs, can include energy storage, both static (eg. batteries, hot water tanks, hydrogen tanks etc.) and mobile, such as electric vehicles, or pipelines full of fuel. The integration depends on the availability of data which is usually provided by smart meters and digital networks that feed signals to control systems and markets to respond efficiently to the supply and demand for energy at any given time. For more information of the ongoing research to better understand how to define and build smart local energy systems as a means to decarbonising our energy system, the EnergyREV team discuss their work here and the government provide some existing examples of demonstration projects here.

The KTN webinar series was a very informative and practical discussion held over four days, 19-22 July. Recordings of the webinars can be found here:

The following is a summary of key takeaways arising from NCS observations and participation in the webinar series:

  1. An open and stable policy framework over time is required to support greater agility in regulating the energy space to create regulations at a pace consistent with meeting Net Zero by 2050.
  2. The long-term persistence of the policy framework would give confidence by removing some of the risk involved in investment to attract finance to clean energy and SLES. Laura Sandys, CEO of Challenging Ideas, in the round up on the final day also highlighted how this would go some way to lowering the cost of capital.
  3. We need at least five times the amount of money currently being invested per annum to accelerate the development of clean energy systems to stand a chance of hitting Net Zero by 2050 (Lawrence Slade, CEO of GIIA in the session on Finance and Investment).
  4. We need to connect, empower, resource and capitalise Local Authorities (LAs) to lead the way in local area decarbonisation, in collaboration with research communities (e.g. EnergyREV), consultants (e.g. Catapult and private companies), Network operators and peers from other local success stories – called for a ’Net Zero Local Powers Bill’:–Mayors-urge-Governmentto derive effective LAEPs or LACPs (Local Area Climate Change Plans). Note the current consultation on Energy Future System Operators recently announced.
  5. The UK100 ‘Power Shift Report’ provides a critical examination of what LAs need to tackle climate change but whilst there is public support for councils to take the lead, they need more help from government.
  6. National government is not good at encouraging behaviour change, which is what is needed. LAs are better placed to changing behaviour and have the experience (e.g., in public health programmes). Councils and community groups have the relationships crucial to leading a multi-vector approach to build a public consensus towards local energy systems. The benefits of local energy investment need to be explained and articulated for communities to be on board.
  7. MPs and civil servants need to understand and better appreciate the role of LAs. Local government needs to resolve political tensions across parties and demonstrate success at scale. Decarbonisation of heating is the biggest challenge where LAs have a crucial role to play.
  8. There are too many unnecessary and detrimental barriers to Net Zero by 2050 in the energy space, like VAT rules on clean energy equipment, and a tendency to focus power centrally. It requires an integrated whole systems approach, rather than isolated policies and strategies, to optimally tackle the climate change challenge. Systems thinking applied to climate, energy and everything connected. Consideration should be given for a national body to coordinate and support local energy hubs.
  9. We need to drive and prioritise local whole system action in accordance with the need to preserve local carbon budgets. Work done by EnergyREV on breaking down the processes and outcomes around SLES implementation into a theory of change to further understand mechanisms necessary to make them happen was very informative (see further outputs from EnergyREV).
Enabling collaboration

10. The benefits of SLES in terms of return on investment were presented by Prof. Jan Web from Edinburgh University. There is tremendous value in public sector investment, “so much for so little”, and she gave the example of an ELENA programme which required a return on investment, or leverage factor, of 20:1 and then attained an actual leverage of 37:1. In the following short video clip, she highlights that by utilising distributed energy resources connected to the local network, net zero could be met more equitably and satisfactorily:

11. Patrick Allcorn, Head of Local Climate and Energy at BEIS, stressed that when submitting for government funding, projects that support multiple agendas have an advantage: levelling up, jobs, etc.

12. Emma Bridge of Community Energy England in a session on trial projects emphasised a socio-economic report from Devon County Council highlighting the wider benefits of local community energy.

13. In the same session on community-driven energy system change, Matt Lipson of Energy Systems Catapult stressed the need for leadership and if it isn’t going to come from central government then it has to be local. This is where community energy organisations can act as trusted intermediaries to facilitate and navigate the many hurdles to successful local energy systems. A role for NCS in Norwich and Norfolk would be an obvious candidate.

14. Eric Brown, Catapult Chief Technology Officer, neatly summarised the three enablers required to prosper from the energy revolution:

  • Mandate – clarity on roles and responsibilities of stakeholders. LAs need to have a statutory responsibility for Net Zero. What additional powers are needed to fill gaps and for an integrated approach?
  • Funding and investment – LAs have funding challenges and competing priorities. Private investment needs to be attracted and deployed appropriately. More flexible procurement mechanisms are required.
  • Co-ordination and collaboration – ensure best practises are shared between LAs. The Catapult Toolkit to support LAs deliver their climate emergency goals is being prepared and will be ready in early 2022.

15. Finally, Dhara Vyas, Citizens Advice Head of Future Energy Services, raised several concerns regarding how local energy systems are rolled out:

  • Government targets are meaningless without mechanisms to deliver. “Easy to talk about but not so easy to do”.
  • Beware the gap between desire and practicality.
  • A danger that inequalities could be exacerbated – inequalities need to be designed out.
  • There is a need to take a user-centred approach, it’s more than just about technical solutions.
What success could mean
Graphic: EnergyREV

Energy Industry Voluntary Redress Scheme

The Energy Saving Trust has been appointed by Ofgem to distribute payments from energy companies who may have breached a license condition and make voluntary payments alongside or instead of fines and compensation. Registered charities can apply for funding to deliver energy related projects that meet the scheme priorities.

The main priority is to help people who are most at risk from cold homes and high energy bills. But up to 15% of Energy Redress funds can be used to support energy-related activities aimed at reducing carbon emissions from energy use. These projects must focus on energy generation, distribution or energy use.

Projects must demonstrate:

  • measurable and lasting reductions in the carbon intensity of energy end use and accelerate the transition to Net Zero
  • have a realistic prospect of delivering broadly replicable benefits to existing and/or future energy consumers.

Another 15% of Energy Redress funds can support the development of innovative products and services related to energy that have a realistic prospect of delivering benefits to existing and/or future energy consumers and that help to reduce the environmental impact of energy use.

The Energy Redress Scheme is open to registered charities and Housing Associations that are exempted charities.

Further information:

Vattenfall Norfolk Projects Community Fund

The wind energy company, Vattenfall, are setting up a community fund to help communities in Norfolk adapt to, and combat, climate change. Vattenfall’s declared aim is to enable everyone to live without fossil-fuels within one generation. Following an online consultation to identify what Norfolk people think a greener, community-focused, climate-friendly future could look like, they are now developing ideas through planning workshops with awards of initial funding planned for 2023.

So, its’ something to look out for and participate where there are opportunities for an ongoing dialogue with the company. For a full timeline see:

The “Vattenfall in Norfolk” project website gives an overview of the two offshore wind farms planned off the coast of Norfolk:

Norwich Community Solar – our future

We have invested a lot of time, energy and expertise in our latest funding bid and we look forward to a successful outcome. In the process we have broadened our connections and strengthened our network of contacts with local councils, businesses and potential future partners. Current government policy and the regulatory framework does not make it easy to develop viable community solar but the context is evolving and examples in this newsletter show they are possible. Initiatives such as the Local Electricity Bill could make a significant difference if, and when, enacted. We have to be ready to take advantage of the opportunities when they come along. NCS membership is healthy with now 88 members. If you are not already a member please sign up via our website: NCS Membership.

As a Community Benefit Society we also willingly accept donations via the same page!

Integrated solar and battery storage scheme in Norfolk?
NCS is keen to work with builders and developers to carry out a feasibility study for a housing and community integrated solar and battery scheme. Let us know if you are aware of potential for such a scheme and contacts for us to follow up. Please e-mail:

Spread the word!
Please share this Newsletter with others and your contacts who may be interested in supporting or getting involved in community solar. The more we network, the broader our contacts and the better placed we are when opportunities arise!

Norwich Community Solar is a community benefit society (registered under the Financial Conduct Authority, number 7456). If you would like to join as a member or have any other comments and suggestions, please get in touch through our website.