Next Generation Innovation Fund
The Next Generation innovation fund offers 3 elements of support for successful applicants:
Research and development support - The opportunity for successful applicants to work in partnership with the Next Generation consortium and others to develop their ideas into a business plan for an innovative community energy business.
Grant funding - If a strong concept, delivery plan and budget can be demonstrated in the R&D stage there is the opportunity to apply for grants of up to £100,000 to help you deliver a new community energy business model.
Learning and peer networking - The opportunity to be part of a peer network which facilitates learning and dissemination between the groups and the wider energy sector to help the sector to move beyond the traditional subsidy-supported approach as the Feed in tariff is no longer available and the sector needs to find new models in order to continue developing.
We also aim to create opportunities to influence how policy- makers, industry and public sector stakeholders view community energy business, thus improving their understanding of and levels of positive and proactive engagement with the sector.
There have been two rounds of applications. Five groups were selected in the first round and have successfully completed the Research and Development stage. They have been awarded grants and are now being supported through the development of their innovative community energy business models.
In the second round six groups were selected and are now progressing into the research and development phase of their projects.
Applications were invited from well-established and experienced community energy businesses in England who had ideas for innovative community energy business models in their area.
Successful groups - Round 1
Green Fox Community Co-operative wish to develop a model for a school focused locally-owned energy service company. Building on their experience of supplying heat and electricity to Hinckley Academy in Leicestershire, the model aims to supply clean locally generated heat and electricity and energy services to schools through a range of low carbon technologies in a better integrated and more cost-effective way. Green Fox have partnered with the Attenborough Learning Trust (a multi academy trust of four primary and infant schools) to develop the model that they hope will eventually be scaled-out with across Leicestershire and beyond.
Low Carbon Gordano in Bristol propose to develop a model for distributed solar and local trading in an urban context. In partnership with Lockleaze Neighbourhood Trust, they are seeking to develop a model that enables the local community to own and operate a 1 megawatt cluster of solar panels on 300 roofs in the city. The power they generate will supply locally generated and affordable energy to 300 households. As well as bringing immediate financial savings to those struggling with their energy bills, the highly replicable model will help to create community assets, raise aspirations and provide a platform for local resident to create climate resilience and develop local enterprise.
Nadder Community Energy
Nadder Community Energy, based in Wiltshire, would like to develop an energy business model that will improve the lives of local residents facing isolation and create returns for investors, while pioneering an approach that will drive adoption of sustainable transport in rural areas. Working closely with a local community transport organisation, the group are at an early stage of exploring possibilities for an electric community transport business model based on a membership scheme and the use of locally generated solar for charging.
Brighton Energy also believe there is an opportunity for the hundreds of community energy groups across the country to contribute to local transport electrification. The group are looking to work with sites where they currently own solar pv assets and look into the opportunities to add electric car charging points. They hope to test the profitably of an integrated package of solar PV, EV charging and battery technology for community energy groups. In a congested city they hope their model will reduce air pollution and noise and bring social benefits such as bringing EV drivers to community centre chargers; providing free charging to disadvantaged citizens and creating a community fund for local residents.
Many small community buildings are not benefiting from reduced energy consumption by changing to LED lighting, so Chester Community Energy wish to trial a business model that finances the upfront costs of smart-lighting installations and enables community groups to repay the investment through the savings on their electricity bills. Chester Community Energy believe that energy saving in the order of 100MWh could be achieved in 2 to 3 years while at the same time reducing the running costs and improving the quality of lighting. The users of the buildings - typically mother and baby groups, keep fit and wellbeing, hobby and recreation, self-help and support, the elderly, and a host of others - will benefit from a small but noticeable improvement in the environment of the community building.
Successful groups - Round 2
Burneside Community Energy Regeneration Project
In partnership with Igloo regeneration, Burnside Community Energy aim to develop a business case to supply community-owned renewable energy for a new housing development in Burneside, Cumbria for the benefit of the whole village. Up to 180 new homes are due to be built in the centre of the village. This project aims to supply electricity and heat to the new homes using a combination of local generation and supply/demand balancing. The homes will be all electric (despite a gas supply in the village) using ground/water source heat pumps with inter-seasonal storage feeding a heat network, a solar PV network, electricity storage and EV charging points.
Carbon Co-op will establish a trusted Community Energy Data Co-operative for their members in Greater Manchester, creating a new, replicable business model based on member consent and featuring services enabled by the analysis and processing of large amounts of members’ home energy and behavioural data. This unique business model builds on Carbon Co-op’s established software development and engineering expertise in the field of energy, data and ICT householder services, including their smart meter integration service, home energy assessment and domestic flexible asset management.
CREW Energy aims to use community ownership of renewable heat to tackle three issues in society: climate change, fuel poverty and air quality. They aim to achieve their goals through education, outreach, community funding, delivery and maintenance of heat networks and renewable heating systems.
Gloucestershire Community Energy Cooperative
Gloucestershire Community Energy Cooperative wishes to develop a business model based on distributed systems of PV and battery installations over 400 dwellings, combined with participation in the market for grid balancing services. Working in partnership with Stroud District Council, the installs would take place across the council’s sheltered housing estate, and the battery capacity would join Ecotricity’s Virtual Power Plant to provide a grid balancing service to the national grid. With the economy of scale from this roll-out, the technology will be offered to the wider community in the area. The model would provide an exemplar for how community energy groups can partner with local councils and electricity companies to deliver innovative, investable and sustainable projects with significant beneficial social impacts, including reduced electricity costs and wider understanding of smart low carbon projects.
Plymouth Energy Community
Plymouth Energy Community and South Dartmoor Community Energy are each working to deliver community led, net zero carbon affordable housing. Community Energy Plus are also working with Cornwall based Community Land Trusts (CLTs) to improve energy performance of these developments. Together, this partnership wants to incorporate stacked energy service business models that deliver electricity, heat and mobility into housing development. This will unlock a new energy asset business model for Community Energy to collaborate with CLTs as well as building exemplar projects for the future of housing.
Bath & West Community Energy
Bath & West Community Energy are working with Stemy Energy on a community centred approach to building a network of small consumers, able to offer flexibility services to their local DNO. The trial will help promote the electrification of small consumers, employing a diverse range of assets including solar PV, water heaters, heat pumps and EV charging. Flex Community will also seek to align the electrification of heat and transport with distributed generation within the same low voltage networks and underpinned by Peer to Peer trading as a way of easing grid connection and improving the financial viability of subsidy free renewables. The trial is based around Stemy Energy’s cloud-based platform and smartphone app, which has already been successfully tested in real conditions in different markets in Spain but requires adaptation and improvements for the UK market.
Shortlisted groups attended interviews and the selected groups moved on to the Research and Development phase. The goal is for projects to be complete by June 2021.
Research and Development support
Before final project delivery plans are agreed, the Next Generation delivery consortium work with groups to carry out an ‘opportunities and constraints’ review of their local community energy business context. Groups spend up to 6 days working with the Next Generation consortium to:
Identify any major risks to projects
Carry out stakeholder analysis
Develop a strong business plan
Review their capacity and governance arrangements
The Research and Development phase is designed to ensure that the Power to Change grant is invested most effectively and to ensure that participating community businesses have access to comprehensive research that will help them develop and refine project ideas and build project plans and detailed budgets.
The costs of the Research and Development Phase work will not be taken out of the £100,000 grant allocation – they will be paid for separately by Power to Change. A separate allowance will also be made to cover up to 6 days staff time, (plus any relevant travel costs) per applicant to engage with this process.
The research and development phase will also provide an opportunity for the group to review their capacity and governance arrangements and identify any areas where the consortium could provide support for this.
We expect the research and development phase to take 2-3 months.
Project delivery will begin once the research and development phase is completed and full project plans have been agreed.
Information on grants:
Grants will be awarded in tranches, against a set of contract milestones agreed with each group.
Groups will need to report against progress, and future grant tranches may be adjusted to account for underspend or overspend against earlier milestones.
Grant payments will be made in advance of each set of milestones, to ensure cashflow issues do not arise for participating groups.
Learning and peer networking
Successful groups will be expected to work closely with the delivery consortium, and the external evaluators for the programme, to capture learning and impact.
Successful groups will also be expected to engage with the wider learning and engagement elements of the programme, which is likely to include presenting progress reports at conferences arranged by sector leaders such as Community Energy England, and working with Power to Change and the consortium to engage with industry and policy makers.
Participating group members will be remunerated for time, travel and expenses incurred in this wider engagement work.
For questions about the programme you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To stay up to date on the fund please follow CSE Communities on Twitter.
Watch a recording of the webinar (the recording is 45-mins, you can scroll to 1:20 to when the webinar actually begins).