Our Renewables Manager, Josh Brown, doesn't just spend his time seeking out new community projects that generate green energy, he also visits schools to help students learn about green energy generation. Here, Josh tells us about his recent trip to the Forest of Dean High School.
In my day to day work as Renewables Manager for Co-op Energy, most of my time is spent at a desk emailing and on calls, so it was a nice surprise to be asked by Midcounties Co-operative (our parent company) to give a presentation to 150 kids at the Forest of Dean High School about community energy, as part of the Midcounties Co-op Sustainable Communities project.
With our target of being the leading supporter of community-owned low carbon generation (see our Community Energy Strategy) we’re keen to make more people aware of what community energy is and importantly, to get a new generation involved in community energy.
The day involved talks about community energy, renewable energy (delivered by my colleague Natalie) and energy efficiency (delivered by Severn Wye Energy Agency). We had 75 year 8 kids in the morning, and 75 year 5 kids in the afternoon, each split into groups of 25 (to make it manageable!).
After running through what community energy is, giving examples of community projects near the Forest of Dean and discussing what a community project needs to consider, we gave them the task of putting up a wind turbine in their community. They needed to think of a name for their group (which definitely took them the longest to do!), list out the factors that they would need to consider beforehand, decide how they would run their community group and what the community benefits would be.
We had some interesting community energy group names come up, with “Trump Wind Power”, “Ginger Turbines” and “Unicorn Pig Feet” being my favourites. Thankfully it seems like my presentation wasn’t too boring and the kids had learnt something, so many of them were able to think of valid factors they would need to consider if they were going to install a wind turbine, such as planning, land agreements, grid access and costs. Many of the groups also said they would run the community group as a co-operative as they wanted everyone to have an equal share in the project and an equal say in how it’s run.
What I found really interesting though was when we started to discuss what the community benefits would be. Some groups put down that they would give surplus profits to charity or to vulnerable members of their communities, but most of the groups put down that the main community benefit would just be generating renewable energy in their community, and “doing their bit”. Many didn’t think about financial returns or cheaper electricity bills, they saw having a community owned project near them as the benefit in itself. Given the amount of NIMBYism that can take place for renewable projects it was heartening to see the next generation have a more forward thinking view on renewable energy and community energy.
June 23rd saw the start of Community Energy Fortnight, which Co-op Energy is once again sponsoring for the fifth year in a row. The fortnight this year has seen record numbers of events taking place across the UK, with over 150 currently planned! Take a look on the website and see if there are any near you. Hopefully the events will inspire the next generation of community energy enthusiasts!