There’s no doubt that York is a great place to live. It’s beautiful, historic, green and run through with a great sense of community. York Community Energy wants to harness this spirit to build a clean urban power station that will empower our community, in all senses of the word. Community energy is a powerful idea indeed: to harness the sun that shines on our roofs, the water that flows in our rivers, the wind that blows across our lands, for the benefit of our communities and to re-engage with the energy on which our modern lives depend. Now these days a lot of people have solar panels on the roofs of their homes or their workplaces and many of us are taking part in the transition that we need to make to a clean energy future. Community energy takes this to the next level: it magnifies the impacts that we can have as individuals and provides an opportunity for everyone to support and benefit from renewable energy. The idea is to create a democratically-controlled
not-for-profit organisation which generates electricity, sells it to a local consumer and returns the proceeds to the community. Supporters living locally, and perhaps those from further afield, would pay for the installation, receive a modest return on their investment and a share of the income would go to support community projects. This isn’t a new idea; there are lots of other such schemes across the country. For example, here in Yorkshire, we have Sheffield Renewables, a community energy organisation which, over the past ten years has built solar panel projects on schools, a community centre and a police station. And over in Whitby, we have Whitby Esk Energy, which built a community-owned hydro-electric
plant on the river Esk in 2007. There are over 550 community energy groups across the UK. Income from their energy has funded such projects as: a refurbishment of a village hall, construction of a children’s play area, insulation schemes to tackle fuel poverty, education material, computers for schools in low income areas and habitat protection. According to government research, community-owned renewable energy projects deliver 12 times the value to local areas than privately-owned schemes. The Golden Ball pub is York’s first community-owned pub. When the lease came up for renewal, local residents formed a community co-operative to run it themselves. Everyone in the neighbourhood could have a stake in it. Community energy has the same idea at its heart: working together to provide a resource for the common good and keeping the benefit local too. The city of York has been around for over 2,000 years but like much of the world, we face a threat from climate change. We were all affected by the great flood of 2015 and floods like this are becoming more common as the climate warms. If we want to be around for another 2,000 years, we need to change the way we power our lives, and quickly. We’re moving into a new era of clean energy. Let’s make sure that communities like ours take their place in setting the agenda and reaping the benefits of low carbon energy. Do you want to benefit from solar energy? At the moment we’re looking for community organisations, churches or businesses with large roofs and significant daytime electricity use. If you’d like to benefit from renewable energy but perhaps you can’t afford the upfront costs, let us put a scheme together, raise money from the community, and we’ll cut your energy bills and put something back into the community as well. Let’s make York’s roofs into a community-owned solar farm! After all, if they can do it up in Edinburgh (and they do), why not do it here in York?