Many thanks to those who came to the meeting at the Civic Centre in Barnstaple on Thursday night. There was an initial introduction from Councillor Rodney Cann and the event also attracted further elected members such as Councillors Mike Edmunds and Ricky Knight, well known for their interest in environmental issues. The main focus of the evening was the launch of North Devon’s Biosphere Reserve and Torridge District Energy Plan. This is a detailed study, rich in information, which has been carried out by Andy Bell, Emilie Le Helloco and Rose Stainthorp and has been funded by the European SEACS project and the Biosphere. Andy made an excellent presentation and the audience were so engaged in the results that most of our discussion took place in questions during the talk.
Among the key results of this excellent study was the fact that £300 million per year was exported out of the Biosphere area to the energy companies. Meanwhile about 9% of homes in the area are defined as being in fuel poverty. 20% of energy use is on private cars, but it accounts for 30% of energy expenditure. 31% of energy used in the area is for domestic heating and lighting. This means that retrofitting energy efficiency and fuel switching could make a significant reduction in expenditure and energy use. 35% of homes in the area are off the gas grid and rely on oil or electricity for heating. There is just over 90MW of renewable energy installed in North Devon (with 66MW contributed by Fullabrook) and about 40MW in Torridge. The report also looked at the potential available resource for different renewable technologies.
There was a further presentation from 361 Energy’s Chair, Thomas Store in his role of SEACS Ambassador for Devon, using expertise gained from his other job with the Energy Savings Trust, Ready for Retrofit Programme. He described the different policies which have been introduced by Government to encourage retrofitting of housing to reduce energy loss and generate renewable electricity or heat. These policies include the Feed-in Tariff, Renewable Heat Premium Payment, Renewable Heat Incentive, Green Deal, and Energy Company Obligation. Future programmes which also aim to lower energy consumption include the introduction of Smart Meters, Private Rented Accommodation being required to achieve an EPC level E and a potential Stamp Duty rebate on energy efficient homes. Thomas also explained a few of these in more depth such as the Green Deal, Energy Company Obligation and the Green Deal Cashback vouchers. The Cosy Devon scheme will be announced soon with E-ON the partner in this Energy Company Obligation programme which will fund £12m of home improvements.
We had a discussion of the role for community energy and there was interest from the Councillors present who wanted to follow this up. The model used in Wadebridge by WREN has interested many, but to set up such a programme will need more than just a few committed people. It will need support from the wider community and engagement with the local councils.
This was an exciting event and it was just a pity that we were kicked out of the building due to them wanting to lock up while still having stimulating discussions. For those keen to be further involved, there are regular meetings taking place between the Biosphere, council officials and active members of the community. These aim to develop programmes to lower our energy consumption and emissions in the Biosphere area. The full report can be downloaded below or from the Biosphere website
There is the opportunity to be trained to become an Energy Champion. Training will be provided by experts from the Centre for Sustainable Energy in Bristol (http://www.cse.org.uk/) and the day long event is likely to take place at the Civic Centre in Barnstaple on 11th April. More details will be released soon.
The final conference for the European SEACS project will take place on 28th March in Exeter. There will be presentations from groups in Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire and Brittany. If you would like to come to this free conference which has many Transition Groups involved, you can book a ticket at
There are currently just over 40 tickets left, but they will not last for long.