Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) was the result of a political commitment to address fuel poverty by the Co-operative (Labour) City Council administration.
PEC was motivated by a commitment to enabling individuals and communities to have choice and control over their energy supply. The co-operative values of the Council administration have influenced its development.
Both PEC and PEC Renewables have directors who are elected by the membership. In both cases anyone can join, but for PEC Renewables only shareholders can vote.
PEC staff time is bought from Plymouth City Council, which formally employs the people as part of their Low Carbon Team. This way, all HR functions are carried out by the Council. There are currently 11 individuals, equivalent to 9 full time employees, working for PEC and PEC Renewables.
DESCRIPTION OF SERVICES
PEC Renewables has made solar share offers which enable individuals to invest in solar panels on roofs of schools and public buildings across the city. The solar panels are free to the schools and other organisations who benefit from cheaper electricity bills as a result. The solar installations benefit from the feed in tarrif, creating a return for investors and an income for PEC. (NB, governement have significantly reduced the feed-in tarrif for future schemes).
PEC’s Home Energy team employs a co-ordinator, two apprentices and a team of volunteers who carry out home visits to provide energy efficiency advice. There are two fuel debt advisors who help eligible people to get fuel-related debts written off.
PEC also provides information and advice to householders about energy efficiency initiatives, such as grants for home insulation.
PEC is about to embark on an initiative with local health care providers to ensure that people leaving hospital are are able to return to warm and affordable homes.
PEC had a £60,000 start up loan from Plymouth City Council and has borrowed money to establish the solar share schemes. Income from the electricity generated pays loans and shareholders with a surplus for other projects.
Grant income has supported the Home Energy Team (NESTA) and the debt advice service (British Gas Energy Trust).[/tab][tab title=”PARTNERS”]Key partners include Plymouth City Council, Housing Associations, Regen South West, Community Energy England, British Gas and Ethex, an ethical investment intermediary.
Solar roofs are in Plymouth, fuel debt work covers Devon and Cornwall and investors are drawn from across the UK and beyond.
TARGET GROUP/SOCIAL PURPOSE
Our primary mission is to give the people of Plymouth the power to transform how they buy, use and even generate power in the city. Working together as a community we have the power to change our energy future for the better. In essence, it’s all about people power.
Our work focuses around three core energy goals:
- Reducing energy bills
- Improving energy efficiency
- Generating a green energy supply in the city.
DURABILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY
Key to setting up PEC was the initiative, investment and political support from Plymouth City Council. Excellent recruitment, leading to a strong sense of shared purpose within the staff team, has contributed significantly to its success, including a series of national awards (These include The Observer Ethical Award, UK Social Enterprise Investment Deal of the Year and the Community Energy UK Volunteer of the Year).
PEC and PEC Renewables have over 1000 members, so public involvement and ownership is important. Excellent branding and communications throughout the project has also been a key factor.
We were aware of our SE/Co-operative being at point of creation.
FUTURE DEVELOPMENT PLANS
Current changes to renewable energy policy by government are liable to make our current business model unsustainable. It is difficult to forward plan without the certainty of government policy.
ADVICE FOR STARTING UP A SE
Passion and enthusiasm is infectious. If you believe in what you are trying to achieve others will follow!