The region’s community energy sector has come together with local authorities who have declared a climate emergency to consider their key role in helping to deliver new targets for renewable energy.

Bath & North East Somerset Council hosted more than 90 people from community and public sector organisations at the Wessex Community Energy Network Conference on 5 February at the Guildhall, discussing how to increase the amount of community-owned renewable generation across the Wessex area to help tackle the climate emergency.

Community energy describes renewable energy projects such as solar panels mounted on schools and free-standing wind turbines that are owned by residents, often those living in the areas close to the generation site. People buy a share in the scheme, have a say in the project and re-invest surplus income earned from energy generation back to projects in the local area.

The conference also focussed on how community energy companies and local authorities, town and parish councils can work in partnership to make projects happen quickly and successfully.

Councillor Sarah Warren, cabinet member for Climate Emergency, opened the conference. She said: “It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to host this timely conference about renewable energy generation, one of the three priority areas in our Climate Emergency plan. As well as learning about what is happening in our neighbouring authority areas, it was also good to be able to share our own experiences of working together with the community energy companies with whom the council has cooperation agreements – Bath & West Community Energy and Keynsham Community Energy. It was great to see lots of energetic conversation and networking between the attendees.”

Pete West, secretary of the Wessex Community Energy Network said:  It is very important that local authorities work with the wider community on tackling our climate emergency – the greatest threat we face today as Sir David Attenborough recently stated. We believe that community energy groups can play an important role in this process and would like to thank Bath & North East Somerset Council for hosting this conference and providing an excellent venue in the Guildhall.

Pete Capener, MD of Bath & West Community Energy, said: Our partnership with Bath & North East Somerset Council over the last ten years has demonstrated how working together, communities and local authorities can deliver much more than they could by themselves. We are looking forward to doing even more in the future with the council, developing community owned and/or community led energy projects that benefit local people and build public consent for the changes that we need to see.”

Mark Penny, Director and Chair of Keynsham Community Energy, said: It was a pleasure to be involved in the Wessex Community Energy Network conference and to be asked to present an update on behalf of Keynsham Community Energy. Community energy is going to be an important part of the future energy mix in the UK and it was interesting to hear from local councils on how we address climate emergency and what part community energy can play in helping to achieve these goals. Looking forward to attending future events on community energy and working alongside Bath & North East Somerset for a more sustainable future.”

Examples of how community energy projects are working in other areas were showcased by Oxfordshire, Dorset, Frome, Stroud, Wiltshire, Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset.

For more information:

Wessex Community Energy Network

Bath & West Community Energy

Keynsham Community Energy

Find out how the council is responding to the Climate Emergency here