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CEP: What’s next for community energy in Wales?

15 June, 2021
By Community Energy Pembrokeshire (CEP)

We caught up with one of our partners, Community Energy Pembrokeshire (CEP), who aim to encourage and sustain all forms of renewable energy in Pembrokeshire. They work with their local community to develop energy projects, which have positive impacts across their county.

Words by Community Energy Pembrokeshire (CEP)

As the dust settles on the recent Senedd elections we thought it timely to look at manifesto
commitments and what they mean in practice for community energy in Wales.

The Welsh Labour manifesto has a specific commitment to ‘expand renewable energy generation by public bodies and community groups in Wales by over 100MW by 2026, working towards our target of 1GW in public sector and community renewable energy capacity by 2030′.

We won’t talk about numbers here, but we wanted to share the experience of our volunteer led community energy group in getting a single wind turbine up and running.

The story starts back in 2006 at PLANED with the Pembrokeshire South East Energy Group (PSEEG) being established and sites identified for a wind turbine.

Then, the hard work began. Community Energy Pembrokeshire (CEP) was established to act as PSEEG’s trading arm. The group needed finance, governance advice, community engagement, legal advice, the list goes on!

Fast forward to 2015 when a Planning Application was submitted for a 500kW turbine. The terms of the Feed in Tariff at this time projected £2 million in community benefit over 20 years of the operation of the turbine.

Unfortunately, this application was rejected by one vote in November 2015 only to be passed through appeal in September 2016.

Perseverance payed off with grid issues being resolved and then pre registration for the Feed in Tariff went live in October 2018, giving 18 months to finance and build, securing the much reduced Feed in Tariff.

CEP received a loan from the Development Bank of Wales through Renewable Power Pembrokeshire (RPP), established as a Cooperative to run a community share offer.

Work began on site in October 2019 with the clock ticking to meet the March FIT deadline. The wettest winter on record caused constructions costs to rise, but the turbine was finished at 1am on a Sunday morning in January 2021.

Peter Davies the current Chair of CEP and RPP reflects on this: “There are lots of lessons to take away here. It has taken far too long. It is a case study in how Welsh Government ambition struggled to be achieved, squeezed between its lack of control on UK energy policy and the interpretation of its policy by local government. The delays caused by the issue of grant support and FIT eligibility, the initial planning rejection and subsequent changes in UK Government policy is estimated to have lost Pembrokeshire in the region of £2million over the 20 years of the project. It transformed the final stage of the project into being a high risk exercise entirely dependent being volunteer directors commitment to deliver a community owned renewable energy project.

“If the new Welsh Government are to make real their commitment to community ownership of
energy projects, we have some recommendations. They must ensure that communities are engaged at outset of any development. Communities need to see and understand the options on models of shared ownership. Welsh Government must develop the capacity of community energy cooperatives across Wales to take lead roles and build partnerships with developers.”

Read the full story here: The story of Prouts Park Turbine – Community Energy in Pembrokeshire (CEP) (communityenergypembrokeshire.org)

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