Renewable Energy Generation and Efficiency for Community Libraries

Renewable Energy Generation and Efficiency for Community Libraries

13th Sep 2012
Here’s Just Power for Communities CIC’s short guide to what you should consider now before the dark days set in. Installing renewables, such as solar PV will help cut energy bills and create a long term, index linked, income to enable funds to be reinvested in further energy savings or your work. But, before you install your group should seriously consider what energy efficiency measures you should be undertaking.
Renewable Energy Generation and Efficiency for Community Libraries

Energy efficiency starts, not with insulation, but co-operation! Explaining, encouraging and reinforcing behaviour changes, even small ones, will over time make considerable savings. You already switch off the computer’s monitor at night - but what about other electrical gadgets which, even when turned off, with transformers still plugged in will continue to draw energy? The Carbon Trust has calculated that a small business could save as much as £6,000 a year if they identify sources of energy waste and change and reinforce behaviour to cut usage. You can try their online tool here to see what savings you can simply make and engage others in supporting this effort. Develop a plan from the start, stick to it and monitor the bills to assess  how you are doing.

Energy Efficiency gets more complicated when technology is involved, especially if your community building as old, large, or leased. If you don’t have the resources to pay for professional advice approach Business Link ask for a free ‘improve your Resource Efficiency assessment of your buildings services (heating, lighting, insulation, etc). I arranged one such free survey for one of our Locality customers with high energy consuming building, who as a result, insulated their walls, Just Power for Communities installed a solar PV system and they were also shown how to save 50% on energy consumption from the freezer and fridge units they need for their social club.

A last but important option are renewables: Solar Panels will create electricity for consumption on site and sale to the grid, solar thermal will heat water or, because of their size, community buildings are often well placed to accommodate biomass heaters to undertake space/water heating. As well as the cost savings you’ll also generate an income from the feed in tariff or renewable heat initiative.  Make sure that you always use and accredited installer, otherwise your installation won’t qualify for these schemes. Just Power for Communities specialises in solar power for the community sector but if you need a recommendation for biomass or solar thermal installer in the South West contact us and we’ll be happy to help. There are other social enterprises further afield who install renewables so look locally where you are. You can use the Just Power for Communities’ online guide to help through all the steps to plan your solar PV project.

One of the major barriers to upgrading or ‘retro-fitting’ community/former public sector property is the cost. With your quotes for this technology you’ll receive a simple calculation showing the return on investment and the number of years to archive payback. Of course if you get a grant that’ll be 100%+! But beware, if you secure a grant (especially from a government source) you must make sure that it won’t be seen as ‘double counting’ and prevent you claiming the feed in tariff or renewable heat initiative. There is a guide on the FiTs and how they work here. Another serious funding option is a loan, maybe from local supporters, or specialist loan finance for the community sector with low interest rates - see our funding guidance for more information on funding and investment.

Of course all these changes, as well as saving money, will help your property and activities sector shrink its environmental footprint too. The first step is understanding what needs to and what is preventing change. Please take 5 minutes to complete our short ‘Energy Matters’ survey. It’ll help you think about change and help us learn more about the challenges you face so we help secure more support and investment for the sector.

Diana Moore
30th August 2012

Just Power for Communities CIC (JPfC) is a social enterprise specialising in solar PV installations for community led organisations.  JPfC was established 2011 with support from Locality members to help them access solar PV so they can cut costs and carbon: becoming genuinely sustainable community enterprises. Locality, Wolesley Community Economic Development Trust and The Key Fund are investors in Just Power for Communities CIC.