Solar-powered trains and bee-saving tech: Community Energy Award winners 2019

Ten awards were handed out on Friday night in a ceremony in London

Community Energy England and Community Energy Wales have announced the 2019 Community Energy Award winners at London’s City Hall.

The winners include Riding Sunbeams, a world-first initiative to power trains using track-side community-and commuter-owned solar.

And with the world’s pollinators under threat, a unique conservation project from the Naturesave Trust also took home a gong. Naturesave has developed thermosolar beehives that generate heat to destroy the Varroa mite, which has been devastating honeybee populations across the world.

Addressing the awards, London mayor Sadiq Khan said: “As the mayor of London I have declared a climate emergency, and I’m doing everything in my power to make London cleaner, greener and healthier. Thank you for your dedication to delivering clean energy projects in London and across the country.

“Our London Community Energy Fund was launched to help more projects get up and running. We’ve already supported a range of projects from solar panels on school roofs, to improving the energy efficiency of community buildings.”

A thermosolar hive from the Naturesave Trust

Organisations who support communities developing their own renewable energy generation schemes also took home awards, as well as energy efficiency programmes that help the most vulnerable in our society and tackle fuel poverty.

Josh Brown, head of origination and product at Co-op Community Energy, said: “The awards have showcased what community energy can achieve. The judges had a tough job to determine the final winners. Co-op Community Energy is proud to support community energy by providing a route to market for community energy schemes. The challenge to decarbonise the UK energy system is also an opportunity for the way we produce energy to become more democratic, we think putting communities at the heart of the process will generate a cleaner, greener and more efficient system for us all.”

Emma Bridge, chief executive at Community Energy England, said: “In a year when the sector has seen the removal of government support, it’s crucial for us to come together and learn from projects that are succeeding even though they are contending with such a challenging policy background.

“Community energy projects are taking ground-breaking technologies and testing them in real life settings, championing the transition to a decarbonised energy system and positioning themselves as the trusted intermediaries between institutions and the public. Quite simply, community energy groups are showing their friends, families and neighbours now, how we will all need to change our energy behaviours in the future.”

Ahead of the ceremony – sponsored by Co-op Community Energy and the Greater London Authority – an expert panel of judges selected winners in each of the categories following an open application process. And the public voted for the Community Energy Photo Award, selecting the image they felt best captured the essence of the community energy movement.

Greater Manchester Community Renewables (GMCR) won the Community Energy Photograph Award, selected in a public vote. Bill McLaughlin, who produces community newspaper the Irlam & Cadishead Times, took the photograph, which features children from Irlam Primary School and Fiddlers Lane Primary School, celebrating the installation of solar arrays at their schools. Also pictured are two GMCR volunteers, and one of GMCR’s directors, Ali Abbas, in a sunshine costume, alongside the installer, Ben Nuttall of NPS Solar, and the Mayor of Salford, Paul Dennett

Robert Proctor, business development manager at Community Energy Wales, said: “With the current public focus on creating a UK that is committed to reducing its carbon emissions, now is the time for community energy groups to harness the interest of people who are looking for ways to take practical, local action on the climate crisis.

“People want to make their communities greener and more energy efficient, but we know the challenge for schemes often rests on being able to get the right initial investment. So once again we’re calling on the Westminster government to enable community energy schemes to be eligible for Social Investment Tax Relief. It is the right thing to do, particularly as other subsidies have been removed, but importantly as these awards have shown, because investors are interested in these often-ground breaking initiatives. Just think how many more world-first and unique collaborations could be developed if even more investors backed community energy?”

The award winners:

Community Renewable Energy Project Award North Kensington Community Energy (NKCE)

NKCE has brought community owned solar energy to Kensington and Chelsea. By involving residents from the outset and engaging schools, community centres, charities and the council, NKCE is developing a people-centric route to create a zero-carbon borough in the heart of London.

Dan Curtis, marketing communications coordinator, BHESCo, Patrick Allcorn from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Kayla Ente, director and founder, BHESCo

Community Energy & Carbon Saving AwardBrighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCo)

In four years, BHESCo has seen 52 energy projects delivered, 670 energy audits completed, 1,500 customers advised, and annual carbon savings of 441 tonnes.

Local Authority Partner Award, sponsored by Power Paired
Bristol City Council (BCC)

BCC has a long history of supporting community energy. It has managed a successful fund (Bristol Community Energy Fund) offering loans and grants to community organisations for energy projects. This has been a catalyst to kick start further programmes allowing Bristol to become a more resilient, more inclusive city.

Islington Council – highly commended

Community Energy Finance AwardPower to Change 

Power to Change’s CORE programme invests in solar farms on behalf of communities. So far, it has purchased six solar farms, and is working to transfer them into full community ownership. Power to Change’s Next Generation programme is a £1m plus fund and expert support programme to pioneer innovative community-led energy ideas.

Friends Provident – highly commended

Collaboration Award, sponsored by Power to ChangeRiding Sunbeams

Riding Sunbeams is a start-up social enterprise on a pioneering mission to power the railways with community solar. It aims to connect enough unsubsidised, community- and commuter owned solar to the rail network in the South East to power one in every 10 trains.

Nadia Smith accepts the Young Champion award

Community Energy Young ChampionNadia Smith

Nadia, 22, has played an important role, both in the UK and abroad, in promoting and raising awareness of the benefits community energy offers to local people, businesses and the environment.

Emma Bridge, CEO of Community Energy England, presents Nick Rouse with his Champion award

Community Energy ChampionNick Rouse 

Nick has championed community energy for over a decade, giving thousands of hours of his expertise for free. A supporter of Transition Town Lewes, director of OVESCO and Meadow Blue, he helped raise £2m for community solar. His education work has benefited schools and the communities across the South East.

Environmental Impact AwardThe Naturesave Trust, Solar Bee Project

This innovative project uses thermosolar beehives in a ground-breaking bee conservation study that also highlights the significant potential for community solar farms to help tackle the biodiversity crisis.

Matt Andrews from Leapfrog Finance (second from right) presents the Social Impact Award to Lesley Giles, Nadia Smith, Giovanna Speciale and Alex Hartley from Selce

Social Impact AwardSouth East London Community Energy (Selce)

Selce uses a range of innovative business models to create positive social impact across their South East London community. Their fuel poverty work helps hard to reach groups by training trusted individuals, and their new projects look at reaching the able-to-pay market, empowering homeowners to take practical action.