Cumbria’s Community Takes Control of Its Energy Resources

Cumbria’s ‘energy literate’ population receives private and public support to help harness its clean energy potential.
Published: Wed 23 Mar 2016

Allerdale in the UK’s North West, gets 86.6% of its power from renewable sources, predominantly from onshore wind turbines, biomass and solar panels. Other areas closeby don’t come anywhere near this kind of renewable development. In fact, the development is so impressive that think tank Green Alliance has suggested that governments follow Allerdale’s example.

Small communities making major impacts

The UK’s county of Cumbria in the northwest of England certainly boasts ideal conditions for renewables development. Its offshore wind potential is very impressive, having the potential to meet the electricity needs of one million households currently.

Walney Farm alone, off the coast of Cumbria in the UK, includes over 100 wind turbines and can produce power for up to 320,000 UK homes.

As well as it being a blustery region, there is also great potential for generating electricity and heat from solar panels. In recognition of this, families across the region have been installing solar panels on their roofs, and businesses are making major investments in cleantech.

Figures from Green Alliance show there are 1,231 domestic solar panels in Carlisle; 1,100 in Allerdale; 1,035 in Eden and 692 in Copeland.

Added to impressive natural resources, Joe Martin, commissioning manager at Britain’s Energy Coast says it helps that the local population is “energy literate” and can “champion both mid and large-scale generation that feed renewable energy directly into the grid.” He adds, “This helps us lead in the area now and will help lower the region’s carbon footprint further when new nuclear comes online and we see both baseload and intermittent power coming from low carbon sources.”

Amy Mount, senior policy adviser at Green Alliance, points out that investment in renewable energy at a local level can have a wider impact. She explains that figures show that communities are already benefiting from the investments they have made.

Following on from the United Nations Climate Change Summit in December, Ms Mount argues that many changes are already happening at a local level. “In December, the whole world signed an agreement in Paris, committing to tackling climate change. But it’s not only global leaders who are taking this agenda seriously. These figures for the northwest of England are exciting as they show that local communities are seeing the benefits of the shift to clean energy. National government should match these commitments and recognise that it’s what local communities want, by stepping up support for this growing industry.”

Britain’s Energy Coast supports clean energy

To take the region’s clean energy potential to the next level, the Britain’s Energy Coast (BEC) was established in 2009. Its mission is to transform Allerdale and Copeland into a diverse, resilient and low carbon economy.

Originally funded by government, BEC has evolved into a public-private partnership consisting of Nuclear Funding Partners, local authorities (Allerdale Borough Council, Copeland Borough Council and Cumbria County Council) and independent members from the private sector with experience in sectors of importance to the local economy.

In 2011-12 BEC added to their existing expertise in the delivery of regeneration projects by merging with funding conduit West Cumbria Development Fund; business support, inward investment and managed workspace provider West Cumbria Development Agency; and Westlakes Properties Limited – owner and operator of Westlakes Science & Technology Park.

This now enables BEC to deliver a wide spectrum of business support and property services to West Cumbrian businesses and inward investors alike.

The programme collects approximately £6 million each year.

Building on existing strengths, BEC provides businesses with the support and infrastructure they need to capitalise on a potential £90 billion investment in the local nuclear industry and exploit opportunities in high-growth clean technologies such as solar, wind and biofuels.

Its strategic aim is to be a dynamic “one-stop-shop” for economic development which delivers business support and support for the energy sector, funds capital projects, delivers a high-quality property service and helps to position West Cumbria in the global marketplace.

Combined, these activities will enable the creation of an environment where businesses can innovate and grow to new heights. With this growth, the Cumbrian community can look forward to employment and general prosperity.

By being involved in their own energy projects, communities will become stronger as locals are given the opportunity to develop new skills and experiences. Communities have the opportunity to create a sustainable and reliable source of income when they generate and sell their own energy. [Can the ‘Power’ of Community Reshape Britain’s Energy Market?]