Electricity North West (ENW) has awarded £71,000 in grant funds to six community energy projects across its region as part of its community energy strategy.

The fund is designed to support projects which demonstrate how they can engage their communities in energy issues as well as supporting vulnerable customers and/or reduce fuel poverty.

ENW launched its community energy strategy in June last year with an aim to respond to customer needs and to find locations where community and local energy can be deployed for “multiple benefits”.

The winning projects were:

  • Energy Local Alston Moor, Alston Moor Community Energy, Cumbria: investigating how to bring a hydro scheme into community ownership.
  • Eco Warriors, Burnley Boys and Girls Club, Lancashire: a project led by the children who will learn how to reduce their own carbon footprint and become Eco Warriors in their community.
  • Energy Justice Salford – buying community-led local wealth, Carbon Coop, Greater Manchester: a new user-led approach to deliver energy efficiency measures to households, particularly those in fuel poverty.
  • Fuel Katao, Paisay Bachao (Save fuel, save money), Kashmir Youth Project, Greater Manchester: bi-lingual energy efficiency advice and tools for the Kashmir community in Rochdale.
  • Community owned energy supply, Burneside Community Energy, Cumbria: a project looking at developing the business case for community owned energy assets to supply a new housing development in Burneside Cumbria for the benefit of the whole village.
  • Provisions of electronic displays for solar generation, Oldham Community Power, Greater Manchester: electronic displays for four schools with community owned solar panels to show the children how they work and engage them on energy issues.

Successful projects also looked at delivering new ways of working fit for a smart, flexible low-carbon grid.

Graham Vernon, centre manager at Burnley Boys and Girls Club, said: “We provide an important platform for education projects with children and young people who may otherwise feel disillusioned by learning.

“As part of this, our Eco Warriors wanted to reduce the club’s carbon footprint in a bid to help the environment, especially in light of Burnley being named as within the top 10 per cent of deprived areas in Europe.

“Over a three-month period, the Eco Warriors will monitor the usage of electricity, record the data and develop evidence they can share with the wider community, particularly the elderly and vulnerable.

“This will have a two-fold benefit – sharing the research-based benefits of carbon reduction with the community, and physically reducing the carbon footprint of several community buildings, businesses and private homes.”

Helen Seagrave, community energy manager at Electricity North West, added: “We’re delighted with our six winners who have all shown a commitment to developing innovation in community energy.

“Each have demonstrated how they will effectively engage with all corners of the community, particularly children and vulnerable customers, to raise awareness of the benefits of community energy across our region.

“This fund will provide some much-needed resources into the development of community energy projects across our region and I’m sure will see increased awareness and understanding of the benefits and possibilities community energy brings.

“We will be launching the next competition later this year and will also be hosting an event in September to invite the winners to present the findings of their projects.”

Lack of policy support is the key barrier to the wider uptake of community energy schemes, according to Colin Baines, investment engagement manager at the Friends Provident Foundation.

At a launch event of the Green Alliance’s new report, Community Energy 2.0, Baines said there is appetite for community energy projects among ethical investors.

Last year reports emerged that the owners of ENW, JP Morgan Asset Management and Colonial First State, were planning to auction off the company “within the next few months”.

According to anonymous sources quoted by Sky News, bankers at Citi were enlisted to conduct a strategic review of the business in preparation for the planned sale.

The sale could fetch more than £2 billion and has piqued significant investor interest, according to energy experts.

ENW has not commented on the reported sale.

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