Community energy practitioners have been helping their communities in some inspirational and innovative ways:
South East London Community Energy have launched free energy advice sessions with trained staff and volunteers on Zoom and over the phone, for people especially vulnerable during the COVID-19 lockdown - they have heard from numerous people who cannot access government schemes for employees or freelance workers, have lost their livelihoods and are facing a financial 'abyss' - their advice is needed more than ever. Details of their service have been added to emergency food boxes and meals, SELCE has connected with new COVID-19 community groups and other local helplines are making referrals to them. SELCE has also contributed £1000 to the pre-payment meter voucher fund and is helping distribute the vouchers, as well as giving advice about the warm home discount and WaterSure scheme.
Repowering are continuing to provide a home energy advice service via telephone and have set up a dedicated COVID-19 webpage, along with distributing a flyer highlighting Repowering services. They found that at beginning of lockdown a lot of people were not receiving information circulated by government or were confused by information received. Repowering are working to ensure there is a suspension of disconnections for clients on credit meters who are experiencing payments problems and are now working to set up a crises fund. They believe there should be an amnesty of credit debt that vulnerable people are building up. Repowering are also working up a service with other volunteer groups to provider support to clients who need help to physically top up a meter - this is a challenge as often some PPE is needed but difficult to obtain. Repowering are working with Lambeth Council and other organisations but it has been hard to coordinate numerous small, local advocacy/community groups - this has highlighted the need to create greater community resilience beyond the current crisis.
Six community-run solar farms in England and Wales have advanced a total of £195,000 in community benefit funds in order to support their local communities through the Covid-19 crisis. The solar farms have all received investment from and are supported by Community Owned Renewable Energy (CORE) Partners - CORE is a social investment partnership between Big Society Capital and charitable trust Power to Change. Its aim is to bring solar farms into community ownership and deliver lasting local community benefits:
- Kent Community Energy is making available £46,000 from the Community Benefit Fund of Orchard 2 solar farm, near Sittingbourne, to support local initiatives to help tackle the coronavirus emergency. Initially, four local charities charities that Kent Community Energy has worked with before on energy-related issues will each benefit from grants of up to £5,000 to help them support local people facing problems exacerbated by the pandemic, ranging from getting food to mental health before on energy-related issues; their aim is that this support will help build long-term resilience in the community
- Twemlows Solar Farm near Whitchurch is making available £20,000 from its Community Benefit Fund to help local initiatives offering support during the coronavirus emergency. They have teamed up with Shropshire Rural Communities Charity (RCC) to distribute the money, which will go to community groups and voluntary organisations across Shropshire.
South-west London community energy co-op CREW Energy has been releasing regular blogs throughout the pandemic, reflecting on how it is adapting to the limitations of COVID-19. CREW has set up a phone Energy Cafe advice line to support those who need energy advice now more than ever, including COVID-19 support. CREW has also been working in partnership with local group Sustainable Merton, combining their expertise to benefit the community.
Communities For Renewables’ ‘collective’ of local energy enterprises rapidly mobilised £100,000 of crisis funding to support those facing hardship in their communities:
- Selsey and Sidlesham’s Ferry Farm Community Solar has allocated £40,000 to support organisations helping those in the local community facing hardship. Initial awards included £1,500 to the Academy Selsey for a subscription to an online library to enable students to access contemporary reading materials whilst stuck at home, £6,000 to Selsey Community Forum, who are co-ordinating the Covid Mutual Aid network for Sesley and Sidlesham, and £10,000 to Chichester Food Bank to support its operation in Selsey and Sidlesham
- Gawcott and Buckingham’s Gawcott Solar CIC has allocated £14,000 to a Corona Crisis Fund, including £2,500 to Buckingham Food Bank to help provide emergency food to local families in crisis and £747 to YC2 Buckingham& Winslow Young Carers for gift vouchers to cheer up 55 young carers looking after family members at home
- National Energy Foundation, who manage Gawcott Solar CIC’s Bee Warm energy advice service are focussing their efforts on helping local households in financial hardship deal with energy company issues including offering pre-pay meter vouchers.
- Burnham and Weston Energy CIC have allocated £40,000 to a Corona Crisis fund and are liaising with local community networks and Somerset Community Foundation, who manage their community fund, to understand where they can be most useful.
- Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy are allocating some of their community funds to support local Food Banks.
Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-operative has a dedicated page which gives details of how the organisation can help those at risk of fuel poverty. BHESCo has also collated information on energy supplier responses for prepayment meter customers.
Plymouth Energy Community has been regularly updating this page, which gives details of the additional support offered by energy suppliers during the pandemic.
Exeter Community Energy (ECOE) has been very busy with its Healthy Homes for Wellbeing project, which advises people in or at risk of fuel poverty.
ECOE is also running a campaign called Winter Warmth to raise money for a hardship fund to provide support for people who may not qualify for other forms of support.
ECOE made a video with Exeter City Council, giving more detail on its work within the community.