Powering Dorset Together Event.
As part of community energy fortnight, Sustainable Dorset was delighted to attend this inspirational event on 29 June in Dorchester hosted by RegenSW, which showed just how much renewable energy there is in Dorset, and what the potential is for more communities to join the energy revolution.
There was a good turnout of local residents, campaigners, council staff, and community energy groups from across the region coming together to celebrate and explore the future possibilities for renewables.
We heard an excellent presentation from Jodie Giles, senior project manager for Regen, which highlighted that the South West topped the national league for installed renewable generation in 2016, but that Dorset only came 5th out of the five South West counties. Electricity generation from renewables in the region ranges from 25% in Christchurch down to just 1% in Bournemouth and Weymouth, which leaves plenty of room for improvement.
And more improvement will be needed if we are to reach our 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, or indeed meet the Paris target of no more than a 2 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures. How this will be achieved when the UK Government has progressively decimated support for all types of renewable energy (except nuclear – which carries doubts that this can be successful in terms of both technology and cost) is a concern.
Despite this disturbing outlook, there is still scope for passionate community action for renewable generation and Jodie urged us to keep building networks to encourage community cooperation so that we will be able to secure the safe sustainable energy we are craving.
One such network is Dorset Community Energy, which was supported by the Big Lottery ‘Communities Living Sustainably’ project. We heard from Pete West one of their directors. He demonstrated how they have successfully financed (to the tune of £498,000) solar photovoltaic (PV) installations on 12 schools and four community buildings across Dorset. Pete explains how community energy is a vital part of the process of social change towards a more ethical sustainable future.
We also heard from Richard Toft of Bridport & Surrounding Parishes. He explained very succinctly how local Neighbourhood Plans are a great opportunity for communities to plan for community led renewable energy developments. He also stressed that this was not an easy process, and not for the faint-hearted! However he will gladly share his experiences if you would like to put renewables firmly in your Neighbourhood Plan.
The benefits of introducing renewables into a Neighbourhood Plan and indeed of them coming into existence would lead to a more resilient local energy economy, affordability of living in the community, and would help create jobs and tackle fuel poverty. Surely these are all the reasons we need for us to switch to cleaner energy.