Wadebridge Energy Company partners with South West Water

For the first time in nearly ninety years, Wadebridge will have its own electricity generating company. Wadebridge Energy Company will install solar panels on roofs and is working with South West Water on an installation to power one of its treatment works.

At the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN) annual general meeting on 30th September, chair Stephen Frankel told WREN members about the new not-for-profit cooperative being set up by WREN – the Wadebridge Energy Company.

Stephen said, “Wadebridge spends about £13 million a year on energy, almost all of which leaves the area. The only way to keep most of that value in Wadebridge and in Cornwall is for the community, not the big companies, to own the solar panels and wind turbines that generate the electricity. This is what Wadebridge Energy Company will do.” The company will initially invest in solar panels on roofs. Any local person or organisation with a suitable roof who has a solar panel system installed by the company will benefit from free electricity from the panels.

Stephen also announced: “We are working with South West Water to increase opportunities for community energy.” South West Water has installed renewable energy generation at several of its water and sewage treatment plants around the region, reducing both its costs and its carbon footprint. WREN and South West Water identified an opportunity to work together with a landowner on a 100kW array in part of a field next to the Nanstallon Sewage Treatment Works. The electricity will be supplied to the works and a planning application has been submitted.

South West Water Renewable Energy Engineer, Ray Arrell, said, “We are very pleased to be collaborating with WREN on this project. Alongside our own investments, a key element of our renewable energy strategy is to meet and work with community groups such as WREN on sustainable energy projects.”

WREN technical director, Jerry Clark, said, “The scheme will form part of the initial portfolio of Wadebridge Energy Company, along with rooftop solar panels. Forty Wadebridge residents have already registered an interest in having solar PV installed by us.”

Wadebridge Energy Company will be owned by local people through a community share issue, taking Wadebridge “back to the future” with local electricity generation. Jerry explained, “Wadebridge generated its own electricity until 1928, when the local company was sold into successively bigger organisations, culminating in the Big 6 today. Wadebridge Energy Company will reverse that. It will generate green energy locally and create income to benefit people in the Wadebridge area, not the overseas shareholders of energy multinationals.”

Local residents will have the opportunity to invest in shares in Wadebridge Energy Company. This will give them part-ownership, a say in what the company does and a return on investment better than bank savings accounts. Everyone, whether they invest the minimum, the maximum, or something in between, gets an equal vote in how the company is run.

The company makes its money by taking the export and feed in tariffs for the electricity generated by its panels. After paying shareholders, operating costs and other expenses, any surplus revenue will be put into the community fund, continuing and expanding what WREN has been doing in distributing £10,000 to local causes and projects over the last two years.

In future, Wadebridge Energy Company expects to expand its electricity generating capability to meet targets of generating 30% of the area’s needs by 2015, and 100% by 2020, and local share ownership will remain a vital part of this. When it has sufficient scale of operation, the company will also look into ways of supplying the electricity it generates to local consumers at a reduced cost – a further benefit for the community. Tony Faragher, WREN director, said, “This will give us the chance to help people directly with their fuel bills, and go some way to alleviating fuel poverty in Wadebridge.”

22nd October 2014