Jul 02, 2020

A collaborative approach to community energy

An innovative community solar program has helped WPD to reduce the bills of public housing tenants who would otherwise be facing fuel poverty.

WPD worked with local stakeholders in Cannock, Staffordshire – an area badly affected by deprivation – to feed surplus energy onto the network, helping residents save 20% on their annual energy bills.

Community energy group Chase Community Solar had already placed solar panels onto houses in the area, in partnership with the local council, but missed the deadline for the distributed energy system subsidy. This meant that residents could only benefit when they used power directly from their own panels. With nearly 60% of solar power not used at the point of generation, the group wanted to develop a more collaborative and innovative model to support residents.

WPD participated in a trial, led by Green Energy Networks, to test new arrangements and to explore the benefits to residents of using the generation or storing it to sell back to the grid.

The project partners installed batteries that can be automatically controlled to discharge at times of peak network demand, helping to manage the demand and generation for local residents without causing them any disruptions.

WPD helped identify the technical requirements to enable residents to share generation across properties. The company also highlighted opportunities for residents to earn additional money by selling flexibility services. The project also enabled surplus energy to be directed to fuel-poor residents in the community.

“This project delivered real benefits directly to customers, in the form of energy bill savings, with no disruption and no need for them to have an in-depth understanding of industry rules and codes,” said Andy Pickering, distribution manager. “We also helped Green Energy Networks to develop a new market model for the social housing sector, which can be rolled out to similar communities. We hope this will become a template for councils, housing associations and community energy groups to work with innovative energy companies to deliver renewable energy to communities, while guaranteeing cost savings to deprived or fuel poor residents.”