News Dec 2020

Dec 2020 STCE Progress Update
2020 certainly has been an interesting year, but despite all of the challenges, we have been making steady progress with the Shropshire and Telford Community Energy project.
Our board of founding members have been busy all through lockdown attending webinars and meeting with our partners and supporters.
We have already started exploring how we might partner with existing schemes and businesses throughout the Shropshire and Telford region, and we have been working hard on developing our long-list of the sites and projects we might be able to support.
If you have a suggestion of an interesting lead, then get in touch; we would love to hear about any new opportunities.
We already have had landowners contact us eager to develop new renewable energy generation, and local community groups approaching us to discuss how we can support them.
Most of our work has been ‘behind the scenes’ for the moment. Our business plan is drafted and we are looking forward to publishing it, to share our vision for STCE’s future with the public. We have also been finalising and writing our policies; these too will be available for the public to review, through our new website which is currently under construction.
Unfortunately, due to uncertainties produced by covid-19, the process of taking over Twemlows has been somewhat delayed, so we now hope to be issuing a share offer in about June 2021. In the meantime, we have successfully completed our application for grant funding from the Next Generation project. We are expecting to receive initial funds that help us get underway with our important work, energising and empowering local communities.
Twemlows Visit

STCE has been founded, in part, to take on the management of the 10MW solar array at Twemlows farm, near Whitchurch, in the north of Shropshire. The profitable site is expected to produce surpluses which will channel into our community benefit funds.
In July, the board of founder members had the opportunity to visit Twemlows Solar Farm.
As a result of covid-19 restrictions, we had almost exclusively been working through virtual meetings and webinars. It was great for us to all finally get to visit, meet the landowner, and talk face-to-face with each other (all socially distanced of course).
We learned a great deal about the history of the site and how it’s managed. It is an impressive renewable energy resource; 40,000 solar panels spread over 23 hectares; generating enough electricity to power 3300 homes a year.

Since this visit, one board member has been back, to explore the site with the conservation manager of Shropshire Wildlife Trust, in order to assess the potential for improving the value for biodiversity. A lot of potential was identified, and we are working on implementing plans as soon as possible.
Survey Results

In August, we put out a survey to the people of Shropshire and Telford, asking them their thoughts on local renewable energy.
The results were very encouraging. We asked: How important is developing more renewable energy locally? Over 57% answered ‘extremely important’, and 24% answered ‘very important’.
We also asked people what type of renewables they favoured. Solar generation, both rooftop and large arrays, were the most popular. Solar farms specifically had nearly 86% support from our respondents. Biogas was significantly less popular, with less than 15% of our respondents saying that they would support it. Some of our respondents also gave us some suggestions; we were told that ground source heat pumps, and geothermal generation would also be supported.
We asked people about the carbon-reducing projects they would like to see. Over 90% of our respondents said that they would like to see household energy efficiency improvements. The next most popular option was for increased electric vehicle charging points; over two thirds of our respondents supported this.
When it came to asking people how likely they were to invest in community energy schemes, the results varied considerably: As many people were ‘very likely’ as ‘very unlikely’. However, 62% of our respondents were at least ‘likely’ to consider investing.

Although this was a small-scale survey, and was very speculative, overall, the results were positive, and reassure us that there is appetite for renewable energy development and sustainability initiatives locally.
Solisco Presentation
As part of our outreach to local businesses, we invited Telford-based green technology entrepreneur Parveen Begum, from Solisco, to speak to our board this September.
Parveen has been included in the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 (Europe) list for manufacturing and industry.
The list, compiled by the world renowned business magazine Forbes, ranked her as one of Europe’s 30 most influential industrial entrepreneurs under the age of 30.
Solisco is a green technology developer, based in the Business and Technology Centre, on the University of Wolverhampton’s Innovation Campus in Telford.
Parveen showcased a range of cutting edge projects in the field of solar-powered EV charging ports. She also explained the technical aspects of the solar carport designs she’s working on.
We learned a lot about the types of projects that might have potential locally, giving us a great deal of inspiration about what we might be able to support.
Local Electricity Bill
We have been supporting the ‘Local Electricity Bill’; a proposed item of legislation to reform how renewable energy is sold to consumers.
The bill seeks to amend regulations in the energy sector which currently prohibit renewable energy producers to sell directly to local consumers. Current arrangements favour large energy companies, and stifle small scale renewable energy production. If the bill passes, it will make local green energy projects financially viable by lowering the barriers to entry to the energy market.
STCE’s board passed a motion to formally endorse the bill, and signed up to join the coalition of other organisations which do too.
See https://powerforpeople.org.uk/the-local-electricity-bill/
Dave’s Letter to the Star

At the start of September, a gentleman wrote a letter to the Shropshire Star, criticising renewable energy and the electrification of transport. Well, our secretary, Dave Green, was having none of this, and wrote an insightful and evidenced response in a letter of his own. Have a read:

Dear Shropshire Star.
I have no idea where L Jenkins gets his data from re renewables but I can assure him that at 5pm on Friday 4th September in the UK a whopping 37% of the UK’s energy was coming from renewables, with 9,640MW of wind, 1,820MW of solar and 280MW of hydro. Plus 290MW of pumped storage, much of which is derived from spare renewables overnight. Since 2013 the amount of electricity generated by coal has dropped from 17GW to virtually nothing, mostly because of the rise of renewables with some help from energy efficiency.  These figures are freely available at www.grid.iamkate.com and are confirmed at the gridwatch website mentioned by Mr Jenkins. Some days there is less wind available but it’s normally windy somewhere and there’s hydro, solar, storage and interconnectors to spread out the load.
Yes more electric cars and heating are going to increase the need for renewables, but plans are in place to satisfy that need.  Not that everyone should swop their fossil cars for electric ones, electric cars will be an important part of a mix alongside electric bikes, better public transport, more cycling and walking and reducing the need to travel. Ofgem expects 10 million electric cars by 2030, and they are confident the grid can cope with that level of demand with a rise in renewables and more energy efficiency.

I’m not an astrophysicist but I do have Maths and Physics A levels and two degrees, so I’m not one of the innumerate, non-technical people that Mr Jenkins seems to think are leading us astray.  It’s time Mr Jenkins reviewed his prejudices and got behind the renewables transition, it’s happening whether he likes it or not.

Working group established

We managed to run one face to face meeting to kickstart the working group in Ash Village Hall on March 14th, just before the lockdown.  We’ve had two online meetings for those who couldn’t make it on the 14th and will be holding further online meetings for the working group during April & May.  It will be harder for the working group to get to know each other without face to face meetings but we’ll just have to manage.