How we generate electricity has been changing for several decades now.
UK electricity used to be generated at a few big power stations, which fed straight into the Transmission Network (National Grid), before it joined the Distribution Network (Western Power Distribution), and finally arrived in our homes, schools and workplaces.
Now there are many 'embedded generators' which are connected into the Distribution Network, and we also have even smaller micro-generation on our homes.
All this means that we need a much cleverer system to ensure we all have the right amount of electricity at the right time. We also don't want too much electricity on the grid.
In order to cope with peak demand, which doesn't happen very often, we need spare generation capacity, previously this has been gas power stations, sat ready and waiting to switch on and whizz huge amounts of power onto the Grid.
Or, the very exciting Electric Mountain in Llanberis, where water is pumped high up into a mountain when there is not much demand for electricity (middle of the night) then released down a vertical shaft at a moments notice - for example when everyone puts the kettle on after Eastenders!
The great news now, is that now UK grid electricity is already 30% renewable. To achieve net-zero carbon we will be increasing this percentage even further. One of the biggest challenges of renewable energy is managing the intermittency.
In the South West, Western Power Distribution are at the forefront of innovation in Flexibility Markets, looking at how we can use smart tech to control when electric vehicles charge, appliances are used, immersion heaters heat up for example, paying industry to operate at specific times of the day, and working with communities to develop local energy markets are just a few examples. All this can take electricity off the grid when there is too much supply. And large energy storage is being used to pump electricity back into the grid when there is not enough supply. Vehicle to Grid technology will also have a big impact when we are able to use our car batteries as storage for our homes.
If you've been wondering why all householders are being offered smart meters - this is why!
Three of our directors attended the WPD Flexibility Forum in Exeter on the 3rd July, to hear about how SDCE could get involved in helping to provide local flexibility and grid balancing services. It was an especially enjoyable day as it was chaired by Jodie, another SDCE director, in her day job with Regen.
We're working up some project ideas, so watch this space!
On the 25th June three of the SDCE directors joined other local residents and 16,000 others to take part in the Time is Now mass lobby of MPs in Westminster.
The aim of the mass lobby was to get our MPs engaged and actively taking steps towards the UK's net-zero carbon target. The UK government, parish councils, district councils, cities, businesses and others have declared Climate Emergencies, but what does it mean, and how can we get there?
One thing we know for sure, is that we need drastic policy changes to make it possible to achieve net-zero carbon, this is where our MPs are crucial and can be instrumental in tackling climate change.
We were fortunate to get a meeting with our MP for South West Devon Sir Gary Streeter. Gary doesn't have a record of voting on climate and environment yet (based on www.theyworkforyou.com) but he was very engaged and interested, and we left feeling very positive that we can work with him to make some changes.
We would urge you to get in touch with Gary and let him know what is important to you, it doesn't need to be a long eloquent letter or speech. Be yourself and tell him what matters, there are lots of tips on how to write to your MP on the Hope for the Future website, they can also help with tailored briefings for your own MP.
If you'd like to chat to us about working with Gary Streeter we'd love to hear from you, please contact us.
On 23rd January, SDCE Directors Katie and Sophie traveled up to the House of Commons for the NEA Heat Heroes Awards. Sophie was honoured to have been chosen as a Heat Hero among 16 others from across the UK.
It was amazing to hear the stories of how each of the winners had gone above and beyond to help alleviate fuel poverty in their local areas. Many of the winners were working at grass roots levels helping people one to one, meeting their needs where other services had failed them.
Sophie said, "although its wonderful to be recognised for the work we are all doing, it is very sad that it is required. Recently we have found ourselves delivering Food Bank parcels to clients who are isolated, in poor social housing, unable to travel or afford to access the internet to log onto their Universal Credit journals, or referring onto Social Services because someone is unable to care for themselves safely. The awards highlighted to me how energy advisors are doing this all across the country. An energy advisor is rarely just an energy advisor!"
You can read the amazing stories of all the winners on the NEA website.
Have you thought about switching energy supplier, but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you’ve used a switching site, but you’re overwhelmed by the choices?
As part of my role as a Home Energy Advisor for SDCE I help people navigate this on a regular basis, and thought it may be useful to share some tips.
What’s the best company to switch to?
This varies depending on your energy use and the offers available at the time. We always check an Ofgem accredited comparison site such as Uswitch, using the most up to date information from your energy bill. The information you need can all be found on your bill under the ‘About Your Tariff’ section.
How do I narrow down the options given?
Before getting too lost in the potential savings it’s worth checking the filters on the left hand side. This allows you to select suppliers who support paper billing, for example, or to look for suppliers who support the Warm Homes Discount scheme. It’s worth including suppliers that you have to go to directly, as these can often offer better savings as they don’t have to pay the comparison site for the referral, and it’s not much more work to switch that way. I normally recommend keeping the options wide open if you’re looking for the cheapest deal.
There’s still too many options!
So you’ve entered your details and filtered the selection. Chances are that you don’t recognise the name of the top 10 (at least) cheapest options. So how to choose?
This is where it gets subjective, but I can outline what I look for in a supplier:
If I’ve not heard of a company before, I head over to their website to look at their ‘About us’ section. If they offer a bit more; working directly with suppliers of renewable energy, providing a community benefit fund or assisting fuel poverty reduction work that is a big plus.
Once you’ve whittled down the list, it may be worth looking at Top Cashback, Quidco or similar cashback sites, or seeing if any friends have a referral code you can use to get a welcome bonus, these can be worth up to £100 in some cases!
And of course if you need any advice please get in touch with our Energy Advice team, you can call or email, pop down to a drop in session or we can visit you at home if its hard for you to get out and about.
On Tuesday 27th November, we put on our sparkliest shoes to attend the Regen Green Energy Awards in Bath. We recieved a free ticket to the dinner because we were shortlisted, and a second free ticket was provided by Naturesave Insurance based in Totnes, who provide ethical insurance (and insure us!)
We're very excited to announce our new Warm and Well South Brent project!
We have a new energy advisor joining the team, Harry Jennings has lived in South Brent for many years and been involved in community activities including Sustainable South Brent. He's recently completed his Level 3 City and Guilds Energy Awareness course so he can provide free and impartial energy advice to local householders.
Warm and Well South Brent aims to provide free and impartial advice to 100 South Brent residents and to improve the energy efficiency of at least 20 local homes by encouraging and enabling the installation of energy efficiency improvements.
Harry will be available to attend your events and give talks to local groups. We are particularly keen to try and help people suffering from a cold-related illness. Please get in touch if you'd like to find out more!
Harry will be available for drop-in energy advice at the Old School Centre on the following Wednesdays (9.30am-1pm):
He will also be at the Health Centre for the Flu Jab Clinics on the following Saturdays:
And at the South Brent and District Carers Monday Coffee Mornings at the Old School Centre:
Smart Energy Marketplace is the largest smart and renewable energy event in the south west, taking place on 19 June at Sandy Park Exeter and attended by over 500 leading companies from across the clean energy sector.
The exhibition features leading businesses, developers, buyers, supply chains companies, professional services and communities. It is a vibrant place for networking and doing business.
The event has evolved to provide the perfect platform for industry experts to focus on the energy system as a whole, including the gas network, electricity systems and disruptive new technologies such as energy storage and electric vehicle infrastructure.
Regen has always supported us, and were instrumental in establishing SDCE. They always bring together a great range of organisations at Smart Energy Marketplace, its well worth a visit!
You can find all the details of the event on their website.
We have one ticket to give away to the event, please get in touch if you would like to come.
Report by Jinni King
On the 9-10th March I was delighted to be invited along to the Regen Community Energy Spring Gathering with SDCE. There were representatives from most of the community energy groups in Devon along with many from further afield. We also had representatives from Local Authorities and Western Power Distribution.
Over the two days we came together at Dartington Hall estate in an open space format, meaning we chose the topics to we wanted to discuss.
As a new member of SDCE I had much to learn and came away feeling almost overwhelmed by the breadth of knowledge and expertise shared by those present, and incredibly enthused by their infectious energy.
While the reductions in Feed in Tariffs have made Community Energy projects more challenging over recent years, there was certainly a feeling of hope as battery storage, local supply options, sustainable housing projects and buyback of existing solar and wind assets open up new opportunities for communities to invest in their energy provision, and receive investment back.
The scale of the positive feedback of Community Energy schemes was something I hadn’t quite grasped before the weekend. Renewable installations generate not only energy, but profits which feed into communities. These can be used to provide energy advice to those in need, bringing down energy demands in the community. They can be used for further community renewable installations, further reducing demand, and generating further profits. Which in turn can be reinvested. And on the cycle goes…
I’m looking forward to helping out in any way I can to help make the PL21 area as sustainable as possible, and encourage anyone with an interest to get in touch to find out more. I‘m so glad I did!
In February we'll be running a series of free information sessions to help you get on top of your energy bills.
Packed with top tips and 'how-to's', you can leave feeling confident on how to get the most from your supplier and whether you could access any help with insulation or other financial support.
Sessions will take place in the evenings in Dartmouth, Modbury Kingsbridge Ivybridge, Yealmpton and South Brent.
The sessions are free, but booking is essential.