The Sustainability Lab shaping brighter futures

The Ynni Padarn Peris journey

IWA and BU Blog

by Dr Paula Roberts, Bangor University

Cychwyn fy siwrne i Ynni Adnewyddol Gymunedol oedd Ynni Padarn Peris.

My journey to Community Renewable Energy started with Ynni Padarn Peris.

A group of seven individuals came together as a result of a ‘rant’ that one of us had in the papur bro (community paper) about a large energy scheme development that was proposed in the valley.  We weren’t against the development per se, but angry that the area’s resources were being used to line the pockets of individuals far away from the Peris Valley…again.  Instead of complaining about it, we decided to do something about it.

It seems that this has spurred many similar groups into action.  Not necessarily in renewable energy, but investing profits from our resources in our communities.

The fact that other groups nearby were also developing their projects also spurred us on, and other communities doing something similar has been very helpful.

Ynni Padarn Peris hydroWe now have a small hydro on the River Goch in Llanberis that can produce up to 55kW when it rains, but we hope that this is not the end of the story.

One of the questions that is often asked, is what exactly is Community Energy? Is there potential for it to contribute to the total renewable energy and economic development in areas?

I obviously say ‘yes’ to both the above points, and it brings extra benefits too.  The social benefits often go beyond the economic benefits.  It encourages entrepreneurship, confidence in your abilities and in the abilities of your co-workers etc.

What are the main challenges to realising such schemes?

On one hand, hydro is recognised as one of the energy sources forming the cornerstone of a carbon neutral future.  But on the other hand the political landscape more often than not makes schemes of this kind very difficult.

I often think that governments and bodies that provide support forget that we’re volunteers looking to invest our friends’ and neighbours’ money.  More often than not, it’s not money from large London banks that pay for the development.  As a result, groups are very prudent when spending this money.  We are members of our community equally appreciative of the individuals who, despite not having much spare money, give us £250 as a more affluent individual with £10k to invest and feel the responsibility of investing this money on their behalf.

Schemes of this kind take years to build.  The majority take 3+ years to realise.  A year for the group (once they’ve come together) to work out the business, another year to fine tune the scheme, and another year to raise funds and build.

Unfortunately, the policy and support climate changes on a much quicker scale than this.  Since YPP started developing the project, the Feed in Tariffs have reduced, business rates have increased, and all this means that we have to adapt the business plan, often at short notice and after funds have been invested.

The biggest challenge for us is this unstable environment.  Every energy scheme, whatever its size, needs time, but small companies don’t have the capacity to cope with many changes.  The majority of similar projects have been successful despite these policies and political strategies.

I, Dr Paula Roberts, will be explaining more about Ynni Padarn Peris in a short presentation at the Eisteddfod, explaining more about the challenges and benefits of community energy.  Visit our event page for further details about the event ‘Diverting the water/wind to our own mill: local solutions to meet local energy needs’ held at the National Eisteddfod by the Institute of Welsh Affairs in partnership with Bangor University’s Sustainability Lab on Monday the 7th of August 2017.  Simultaneous translation will be available.

Notes from the organisers

We are keen to hear from individuals and communities who might be interested in developing their own schemes beforehand. Our hope is that as a result of this event inter-community collaboration and co-creating will be facilitated and enhanced and that new ideas will emerge.  To contribute to the discussion you can use social media @planetdotcymru #LocalEnergyWales or contact Einir Young or Gwenith Elias.

 


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