Calderdale Community Energy sets up as Community Benefit Society

In January 2014 the Coalition government announced its Community Energy Strategy.  At the same time Calderdale Council’s Cabinet voted to accept proposals for the Council to set up a community benefit society, Calderdale Community Energy, in partnership with local third sector organisations like Hebden Bridge Alternative Technology Centre and Pennine Community Power.

The aim is to support the development of community renewable energy projects in Calderdale.

I caught up with Finn Jensen from Pennine Community Power at the end of October, to find out about progress with Calderdale Community Energy (CCE).

CCE has been set up as a Community Benefit Society registered with the Financial Conduct Authority, with a membership of Calderdale Council, Pennine Community Power (PCP) and Hebden Bridge Alternative Technology Centre (ATC).

Support for CCE comes from Quantum, a small consultancy group involved in community energy schemes.

CCE is working on Cromwell Bottom micro hydro project. Finn said this is a long-drawn out process because of the need for Environment Agency surveys and so on.

CCE’s sale of shares in the Cromwell Bottom micro hydro scheme will happen at some time in the future when Calderdale Council and the Environment Agency have approved the scheme. Finn said this could easily take two years and first CCE will have to see if the scheme stacks up financially.

The Council is considering setting up a visitor centre at Cromwell Bottom Nature Reserve and it would be better financially to sell the electricity locally rather than to the National Grid since the National Grid doesn’t pay much.

CCE have also looked at potential wind turbines on Council-owned land, but after many surveys no obvious sites have been identified.

There are no sites for large turbines (over 500kw). Sites with potential for medium sized 50-500kw turbines are full of complications, for instance they are too close to residential areas.

There are some sites for small turbines but CCE haven’t started looking at these because Calderdale Council seems currently opposed to approving planning applications for wind turbines, after they turned down Yorkshire Water’s application for 4 wind turbines above Todmorden. And also Eric Pickles, the Minister for Local Government, is anti- onshore wind turbines.

Calderdale Council are looking into anaerobic digestion as a possibility for CCE, as well as  solar pv farms on fields or community buildings and private businesses.  Threeways Centre in Halifax is interested, but may want to finance it themselves.

Some businesses with large roofs on the business site in Shelf are also interested in the possibility of solar pv. Installing solar pv is less controversial and quicker than wind turbines, so this could be the first completed CCE project, Finn thinks.

For solar pv on businesses’ roofs, CCE would do a share offer to the public (and to the businesses’ employees). CCE would take the Feed In Tariff payments and would sell the electricity directly to the host businesses through Power Purchaser Agreements. This would be cheaper than the electricity they currently buy from the national grid. So businesses benefit from cheaper electricity and also from a green branding advantage.

In terms of public accountability, CCE reports to the Calderdale Energy Future Community panel.

There are some 2012 and 2013 Minutes for Calderdale Energy Future Panel here  but there don’t seem to be any publicly available minutes for the Calderdale Energy Future Community panel.

Update 19.3.2022 Calderdale Community Energy says on its Facebook group:

“With the ongoing lack of government support for community energy schemes it is difficult to find any projects which are economically viable. The website is still live for info and we keep tabs on policy to try to identify when things may change.”

There was a House of Commons debate on community energy schemes in Westminster Hall in November 2021. The House of Commons Library webpage about community energy schemes has some interesting info.

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