COMMUNITY ENERGY IN GARGRAVE & MALHAMDALE
Sustainable rural development
A survey carried out in Malhamdale in 2007 found that, on average, residents were spending £630 each annually on electricity and heat, or roughly £1300 per household at 2007 prices. Extending that to Gargrave and Malhamdale, our combined population of around 2,500 are paying over £1.5 million annually (more at today’s prices) to outside energy suppliers. Some of that money could benefit to our communities by generating electricity and heat from our own renewable energy resources.
Since 2010 with the introduction of feed-in-tariffs (FIT’s) solar PV (electric) panels have appeared on a number of roofs and a few farmers have been able to benefit from small-scale wind turbines. Last year the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) has increased demand for air source heat pumps and biomass boilers. However many households who either cannot afford the high up-front cost of these technologies or lack south facing roof space suitable for solar panels, suitable sites for wind turbines or storage for biomass fuel, etc., cannot benefit, yet are burdened by the (albeit minor) escalation in energy prices created by subsidies. Not only is such a patchy development an inadequate contribution to decarbonising our energy supply, it is not taking advantage of the possibilities of community ownership presented by the change from centralised fossil fuel and nuclear power supplies to distributed generation using local renewable energy sources.
The answer to this is to set up a collective renewable energy project that would benefit the whole community. Community owned projects contribute more effectively to decarbonising our energy supply, and are less dependent on subsidies. Community energy groups normally own and operate either a single project or multiple smaller projects, that generate electricity for sale to the grid or they can operate a heating source such as a biomass boiler installed in a community building or serving several homes. A company or legal entity needs to be formed whose primary function is to benefit the community. Many groups around the country are doing this and most are funded and owned by shareholders. The idea is to earn a profit which is shared between shareholders and the community. Settle Hydro Ltd is a local example.
The government supports community projects because they engage the general public, getting us involved and supportive of the transition away from centralised fossil fuel and nuclear power stations. The government’s Rural Community Energy Fund provides grant funding up to £20,000 to qualifying groups to pay for an initial investigation into the feasibility of a project and further loans up to £130,000 for development are available if the scheme is proved viable.
If you have in mind a renewable energy project you would like to see implemented please click here.
Proceeds can be used to improve village halls, maintain the fabric of churches, contribute to libraries and other amenities while earning a dividend for investors. The project would also provide a valuable education resource … and a shelter for sheep!