Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN) Ltd is a not-for-profit company engaged in increasing the take up and sharing the benefits of renewable energy in the Wadebridge and Padstow network area (see map). It is led by volunteers on the Board of Directors (click to see the team) and has over 1,100 members.

We currently have three main strands of activity:

  • the Energy Equality Project which is investigating new rooftop solar installations and a peer-to-peer energy trading mechanism (click here);
  • promoting electric vehicles and chargers;
  • administering the community funds contributed by local commercial wind and solar farms (click here).

 

A brief history

WREN was founded in 2011 by a group of Wadebridge people wanting to do more for their town, who envisaged renewable energy as a community asset, enabling much more of the energy spend of the town to remain in the area, rather than transferring up country and overseas to the big energy suppliers. We set a target of creating community ownership of enough renewable energy production to supply 50% of Wadebridge’s energy needs by 2015 and 100% by 2020. Sadly, we were not able to achieve those targets, as the electricity grid and network in Cornwall became full, making grid connection impossibly expensive. This put an end to our plans for a Megawatt-scale solar farm.

Nevertheless, we were able to build a 100kW solar farm at Nanstallon with a power purchase agreement to supply all its production to the neighbouring South West Water sewage works. We also procured or influenced the installation of solar PV, wind and renewable heat and enabled many households to take advantage of government funding for home insulation. (click here). This was largely achieved by opening the Energy Shop on The Platt, one of Wadebridge’s main shopping streets, which became a focus for advice and assistance to residents. A BBC report of May 2015 lauded Wadebridge as ‘the town where one in ten have opted for solar power’ (click here).

We initiated and carried through the Sunshine Tariff project with Western Power Distribution (the local network operator), pioneering time-of-use tariffs to influence electricity demand (click here).

Government support for renewables diminished and disappeared as we completed that project, removing opportunities for community renewable projects. WREN decided to reduce its scope of operations, cutting costs to a minimum to conserve its own funds whilst looking for new opportunities. Sadly, this included shutting The Energy Shop in 2016.

For about three years we focussed on administering the community funds contributed by St Breock wind farm and Middle Treworder solar farm, distributing £60,000 - £70,000 per year to local voluntary and not-for-profit organisations in the community. This activity continues, and in 2020 included a ‘rapid response’ fund for organisations providing services in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, or who had been financially impacted as a direct result of the pandemic.

In 2019, we began a new project, Energy Equality, funded by RCEF, the Rural Community Energy Fund, to investigate the feasibility of peer-to-peer trading as a means of using community energy to encourage further investment in rooftop solar PV and at the same contribute to alleviating fuel poverty. We also began taking a more active interest and role in promoting electric vehicles and the provision of public charging points for them.

 

So what has WREN achieved? Click on the blackboard below to see.