With rising energy bills, more households in fuel poverty, the Green Deal making headlines and local authorities receiving a greater number of enquiries and applications for renewable energy installations; one local partnership, is approaching the cost of energy head on.
Transition Town Totnes is part of the South West Devon Community Energy Partnership (SWD CEP) is a unique network of local authorities, including Devon County Council, with community energy and environmental groups throughout the South Hams, West Devon and DartmoorNational Park. The partnership has been supported through the SEACS project, match funded by Devon County Council and the EU Interreg IVa programme.
“The SWD CEP quickly realised that in order to influence policy and guidance within our area we needed to establish a robust evidence base. Therefore, to focus our future working we commissioned the University of Exeter to provide a study of South West Devon. This is an independent assessment of current energy consumption and opportunities for energy efficiency and renewable energy generation across the area.” Said Kate Royston Chair of the SWD CEP
The study has provided some surprising results which have impacts for the South West Devon area and the future potential for energy resilience for all sectors. Current energy consumption is divided in, approximately, equal thirds between the transport, domestic and non-domestic sectors. This energy consumption results in approximately £0.4 billion being spent on energy in SW Devon – equivalent to about a fifth of the economic output of the area or about 15,000 full time jobs. Effectively each person is spending £2,600 each year on energy within this area.
Overall, energy demand could fall by 13% by 2022 as a result of government policy, despite population growth. But the study highlights that the implementation of government policy requires significant action at a local level. In spite of this, it is estimated that the benefits of reductions in energy demand could be more than offset by rises in energy prices, meaning that overall over this period total spending on energy is likely to increase if no further action is taken.
Sixty per cent of the non-domestic electricity consumption in the study area is used by just 2% of the meters, meaning that across South West Devon there are relatively few large business consumers of energy (perhaps up to 280) which can be helped to reduce their energy costs.
The University of Exeter also examined the potential for renewable energy generation across the area looking at the opportunity to meet our energy requirements through a mix of technologies including hydropower, wind, geothermal, marine, biofuels, solar, biomass and heatpumps. This indicates that although a huge step-change in delivery would be required, South West Devon has the natural resources to meet a high proportion of its demand for energy, especially once energy demand is reduced through efficiency measures.
Transport is responsible for 38% of the energy consumption and over half the area’s spend. This is due to the rural nature of the area, the high percentage of single car occupancy and the lack of availability of public transport.
The study indicates that the greatest opportunities in the domestic sector are from solid wall insulation, encouraging further behavioural changes and installing micro-generation renewables.
The study was presented to local councillors and officers from South Hams, West Devon, DevonCounty and DartmoorNational Park in June.
“Understanding all the dynamics, costs and impacts of how we use and create energy in our communities is essential for the future, and this study will help us to do that. We must now look carefully at the evidence and the implications for our residents.” Said Councillor Oxborough of West Devon Borough Council.
The study is being used by the SWD CEP to discuss what the energy objectives for the area should be, what would be achievable, and what projects should be prioritised for maximum effect.
In parallel the SWD CEP is developing a number of initiatives across the area including community training, events and impartial advice on energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable transport; together with stakeholder engagement and consultation on policies.
For more information and a copy of the report please see: www.swdcep.org.uk