Installation of solar PV in low-income and local housing association properties across the Totnes region of Devon to reduce bills and carbon emissions.
Project aimed at tackling rural energy poverty in Devon, UK, where levels are around the UK average of 11%, and the second highest average fuel poverty gap of the UK regions (money required to reach the threshold for fuel poverty). Contributors include a low-wage economy, lack of affordable housing, high percentage of rural households and growing elderly population.
Installation of 607 solar PV on 40 South Devon Rural Housing Association (SDRHA) households (which houses predominantly lower-income or vulnerable people, including those at risk of fuel poverty), a 25-bed care home and the SDRHA’s HQ, funded by Totnes Renewable Energy Society (TRESOC - a Devon-based community investment fund for renewable energy projects) and SDRHA.
The installations benefited from the UK Government’s feed in tariff which guaranteed a set income for each unit of electricity generated for 20 years, which pays for the panels, whilst
tenants of the homes benefit from reduced energy costs. If people generate their own renewable electricity, they can apply for payments from their energy supplier for each kWh of electricity generated. Generators of electricity can sell half of their units back to the grid for 0.06 Euro per unit.
TRESOC also provided tenants with information about the need for and benefits of clean energy, by having in-depth discussions and printed information leaflets.
Upfront investment. funded by TRESOC’s community investment fund and SDRHA for the solar panels. Local companies to provide installation/care of PV and data analytics. UK Gov Feed-in tariff to provide payback on investment.
Evidence of success
85 tonnes CO2 reduced/year across the project, generating 148,000kWh of electricity/year. Based on a 15p/kWh cost, combined energy savings for residents could be 15,590 €/year. 40 low-income households in the region benefitted & increased knowledge & involvement in the energy generation process. 70% of participants saw a reduction in their energy bills. Awarded the Regen (a non-profit centre of energy expertise and market insight based in the UK) South West Green Energy Community Award in 2015
Needs upfront investment from housing associations and thus some may find this initial cost an untenable amount, even if the returns are guaranteed. Requires a government feed-in tariff to guarantee the return on investment.
Potential for learning or transfer
High replicability due to easy model; upfront investment, paid back from fixed feed in tariffs, and low, fixed electricity costs for tenants. Use of local businesses and investment means that profits of the scheme benefits the local economy and local people, it is a win:win scenario. However, it requires a government feed-in tariff to guarantee the return on investment.
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