Newport Council enlists Egni Co-op to help it go carbon neutral

The co-op is fitting solar panels to council buildings across the city

An ambitious project to instal multiple roof-mounted solar panels at council buildings across Newport, south Wales, has taken its first step.

Newport City Council is working with Egni Co-op to it meet its goal of carbon neutrality by 2030.

Following a detailed feasibility study – with support from the Welsh Government Energy Services, Sustainable Communities Wales and the Wales Co-operative Centre – a plan has been drawn up to install 6,000 solar panels across 21 sites at zero cost to the council.

Schools, a council depot and care homes have so far been identified and once installed the solar panels will generate an estimated 1,973,000 units of clean renewable electricity per year.

Newport Council says work has recently been completed at Parklands and Blaen-Y-Pant residential care homes where 129 solar panels have been installed across both sites.

Most of the electricity generated will be used on site reducing the council’s carbon emissions by 348 tonnes per year, the authority says. Some electricity will also be exported onto the grid for use in the city.

Cllr Deb Davies, the council’s cabinet member for sustainable development, said: “The council is determined to take a lead on tackling the climate crisis and by working with Engi Co-op in the coming months we will achieve a 20 fold increase in the amount of renewable energy installed on our buildings.

 “This is a big step towards our ambition of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.”

 Egni Co-op is a community organisation which funds and manages PV installations in Wales. It was set up by Awel Aman Tawe  (AAT), a community energy charity which has been operating for 20 years.

The solar panels in Newport have been funded by a loan from the Development Bank of Wales and Egni’s ongoing co-op share offer which has raised £1.4m to date.

 It is promoting a specialist education programme highlighting the benefits and use of solar panels, renewable energy and the business model of co-ops.

The company is also part of an EU project to support co-op entrepreneurship in schools which starts in April this year.

It will be working with Newport City Council in this project and use the materials produced as part of its education pack in the city’s schools.

Cllr Gail Giles, the council’s cabinet member for education and skills, said: “We are delighted by the positive way our school pupils and staff are engaging with this ambitious project.

“A number of our schools are already members of Egni’s sister project Awel Co-op wind farm and have visited wind turbines. As part of Egni’s work an online educational portal will be developed so students can learn more about renewable energy generated on the roofs of their schools.”

 Egni Co-op will also be providing specific teaching/lesson support which ties in with the new Welsh curriculum via a dedicated energy officer who will be visiting schools.

Egni director Rosie Gillam said: “We are excited to be with Newport. Our aims are to tackle climate change, reduce Welsh energy costs and develop educational projects with schools. It’s wonderful to be part of a co-operative working alongside a Welsh local authority, as it retains funding within Wales and has many positive educational outcomes.

 “Each school will have £500 of shares in the co-op, which will provide opportunities to learn about the co-op business model to help boost entrepreneurship.”