The story so far

13.4% of Plymouth households live in fuel poverty...

In England, this means that were they to heat their home to a comfortable temperature, their remaining income would be below the official poverty line, in essence they have to choose between a healthy, heated home and food on the table. The city also contends with a largely inefficient housing stock.

A co-operative Council... 

In line with its co-operative ethos, Plymouth City Council (PCC) recognised community energy as a potential solution to rising fuel poverty and carbon emissions. They provided a start-up loan and grant, got together founder members and after much community engagement, helped formulate a business plan for a new community energy group in the city.

The start of Plymouth's energy revolution...

In July 2013, Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) was born. With 100 founder members, the Council passed entire control to a newly formed Board of volunteer Directors from across the community. A unique service-level agreement was formed for the council to provide staffing expertise from their low carbon, business, finance, legal and human resources teams to PEC.

After starting with a simple switching and advice service, PEC quickly started applying for funding and collaborating with a range of organisations in the quest to change Plymouth’s energy future.

This has evolved to include affordable or free insulation and boiler schemes, a fuel debt advice service, a home energy team, a volunteering and training programme and a health service referral pilot project. For further information about current services, please visit our Help & Support section.

Anyone can become a member of PEC; membership has grown to over 1200 individuals and organisations.

Then came PEC Renewables...

Alongside the development of core frontline services, in 2014 PEC set up PEC Renewables, another Community Benefit Society, to fund and build community-owned renewable energy installations in the city.

Solar roofs...

In 2014, members of the public were invited to buy community shares with a minimum of £50. Over £600,000 was raised and in addition to a £500,000 loan from PCC, this was used to provide 21 schools and community buildings with free solar panels. 

And more solar...

In 2015, a second opportunity was given and another £850,000 raised, again alongside a £500,0000 loan from PCC, another nine solar roofs were built, including Plymouth’s largest, now crowning the city’s busy leisure hub, Plymouth Life Centre.

Then came Ernesettle community solar...

Towards the end of 2015, we teamed up with a local economic development trust to turn derelict land into a solar array. The race was on to do this before the government cut the subidies. In March 2016, the 4.1MW ground-mounted array in Ernesettle was complete and generating enough clean energy to meet the annual needs of 1000 homes. We raised nearly £1m in community shares.

These community-owned installations allow investor members to receive a fair return, provide low-cost clean energy and a valuable educational resource to host organisations and generate a vital community benefit fund to develop and ensure longevity for PEC’s core services. For further information on community renewables, please click here.

Meanwhile on the front line...

In 2016, we secured funding through The Healthy Homes Fund from the British Gas Trust to address the impact that poor housing can have on health. During the year long project we worked with health providers to target individuals with existing health conditions exacerbated by the cold or damp. Read more about the Healthy Homes project here.

In June 2016, the Big Lottery gave us almost £500,000 to use for 4 years to help people living with disabilities and illness in Plymouth stay warm and well. Read more about the Warm & Well project here

In October 2017, after adding five new advisors to our Energy Team, we started a new project, in partnership with Plymouth City Council in Ham, Devonport and St Budeaux. Home owners and private renters receive free home visits and energy saving measures such as LED lighting, draught proofing and heating controls. This is funded by Intereg's Climate Action Neighbourhood prorramme.

Lighting up local schools and businesses...

Since 2016, we have been helping local schools and businesses retrofit their buildings with LED lighting, saving them £££s on their energy bills. For further information on this project, click here

The future...

Changes in national policy for renewable subsidies and tax relief for community energy schemes have driven changes to the original business model but innovation, resilience and adaptability are securely built into the foundations of PEC and PEC Renewables. We have been working with industry partners to find new business models and assess the potential for storage solutions for community energy groups. We are currently scoping sites for biomass and more roofs for solar. 

As always, we are on the lookout for new partnerships and funding opportunities, to ensure our long-term vision to help Plymouth transition to a fair, affordable, low-carbon energy system with local people at its heart.


 

‘We set out to create a community of like-minded people who are committed to helping transform all things energy-related for the benefit of the local community and we are doing just that!’ Dave Garland, founder Director of PEC and present PEC Renewables Chairman.