Totnes Renewable Energy Society (TRESOC) are delighted to have been awarded an Energy REDRESS grant from the Energy Saving Trust (EST), to develop Energy Local Totnes (ELT) over the next two years. EST recognised the Energy Local Plus project as highly innovative and able to demonstrate a new business model for buying and selling locally generated renewable energy for the benefit of communities; a first in the UK.

TRESOC will continue to work with Energy Local CIC to grow the size of ELT by connecting 400kW of local renewable energy electricity into the club, (including 100 kW of new generation), and signing up 200 local households as new customer members. Small businesses can also join as customer members.

TRESOC’s modelling suggests that the average household – a 2-3 bedroom house with average electricity consumption – will save 10% off their bill. But if they are able to shift the times of their demand and use the electricity when it is generated, they could save up to 30%.

We anticipate that domestic generators with excess electricity from their solar PV will be able to sell it into ELT from 2024 onwards. This is intended to drive the development of domestic solar, as well as provide an additional income stream for householders.

A key aim of the project is to keep the economic benefits of renewable energy within the local economy and provide residents and small-scale generators with some protection from fluctuating external markets. However, the long-term aim is to lift local people out of fuel poverty by providing low-cost electricity. The first year of the project will be a trial to ensure the reduction of people’s bills. Once that is established people on low incomes will be invited to take part. ELT will also invite low income households that have had solar PV installed as part of the ECO grant schemes.

The club will go live in October 2023, when 8 households will be switched onto the Energy Local Totnes tariff with 100Green. It takes about 3 weeks for the full switch to take place. The next round of switching is due to take place in Spring 2024. Anyone who wants to buy their electricity from ELT needs first to sign up or register their interest through the Energy Local website. To join the ELT club, households will need to be within the Totnes Substation and have – or be happy to have – a smart meter fitted.

The University of Plymouth (UoP) will evaluate the financial, environmental and social viability of a local renewable energy market, using ELT as a case study. The University will investigate direct economic savings and carbon emissions of the households in the ELT club based on their use over the course of a year and their previous tariff and supply company. This research and evaluation will be directed by Professor Ian Bailey, and carried out by a master’s student on the Sustainable Environmental Management MSc.

The results of the UoP evaluation will be disseminated GB wide to community energy organisations, using the web, events and workshops.

The EST grant will also provide training for 10 more Energy Local advisors and establish, to operation and including incorporation, 2 new EL clubs (in addition to ELT). Other potential substations include South Brent, Ashburton and Buckfastleigh areas.

In addition, the grant will support and grow the Renewables Energy Experiential Learning (REEL) programme, educating 120 school and pre-school children about community energy. TRESOC are already in discussions with Park School and S John’s to take part in the project.

The EST grant recognises the significant potential of this project, it is highly replicable, and once we have demonstrated it here in Totnes, it will spread to other places and has the potential to start some real systemic change, making the energy system more equitable as we transition to a green economy.

Initially the club will start small, as the number of customers must be balanced by the amount of generation, but it will continue to grow as new generators join. Harrison’s Garage on the Totnes Industrial Estate will be the next generator to join the club, selling the excess electricity from their newly installed 30kW solar array. TRESOC have a planned pipeline of community-owned rooftop solar PV projects, that once installed will sell their electricity into the club. In March 2024, it is hoped that Totnes Weir Hydro will join the club: this will increase the potential size of the club – and the savings to be made – exponentially.

ELT member households will be invited to take part in coffee mornings, which will provide demand reduction and demand shifting education activities to maximise the use of the cheaper local renewables. They will also receive smart plugs to help them manage when they use their appliances.

Energy Local Plus model

Energy Local have established several similar projects across England and Wales. This will the first that will continue to grow, as new generators and customers join, continuing to support the growth of community renewable energy, while reducing peoples bills and greening the local economy. This new business model is called Energy Local Plus or EL+.

Once this new business model has been demonstrated in Totnes, it will spread to other places and has the potential to catalyse some real systemic change, making the energy system more equitable as we transition to a green economy.

Benefits of Selling Energy Locally

Buying and selling renewable energy locally has many economic, social, and environmental benefits:

· The community benefits from buying energy more affordably, helping to reduce fuel poverty

· Small local generators receive a decent export rate for their excess energy and more control over pricing

· Profits are retained by the local community, supporting the local economy

· Fairer export prices mean more local renewable energy projects become commercially viable for households, communities, and businesses, which acts as an economic driver for more renewable energy development and a gradual greening of the local economy

· Local renewable energy resources make the community more energy secure, self-reliant, and resilient, as energy prices are decoupled from volatile international markets

· The environment benefits as consumers reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions

· Buying renewable energy from local places make consumers feel more connected to energy supplies and fosters energy responsibility

· Balancing local supply with demand helps the national grid reduce the need for costly network upgrades

· Less electricity is wasted through transmission losses, as the distance from supplier to customer is shorter