After 39 years of experience in public sector contracting and supply chain management, I got involved with RENEW when I saw the breadth of strategic initiatives that could be used to benefit communities wanting to embrace climate change activities. I see Community Energy, Climate Change and Carbon Reduction targets as an opportunity to engage with the community. In the right hands, these activities will energise local people to make change happen for themselves. I believe taking positive action will regenerate our people, our buildings, our community spirit. I introduce practical solutions to address sector specific skills shortages including Renewable Energy training. My current successes are a WEFO 1.6 million small scale community energy project and 2.2 million elderly home project being included in WG Housing Innovation Programme. A community who can generate, store and release their own energy can elevate fuel poverty, address social inequalities and promote a culture of caring and sharing for themselves. My contracts provide practical solutions to overcome a wide range of social barriers. To make a project happen I find solutions, promote innovation, creativity and community empowerment. I have extensive knowledge of mainstream programmes, services and funding available to address social barriers.
Tell us about an experience of your work with Renew…
In October 2016 an increase in community pride and participation resulted in an interest in preserving a community chapel. The realisation: a high number of community buildings were being closed, sold and boarded up due to the cost of running the buildings sparked a range of ideas to improve community facilities. Three friends’ societies were developed and information regarding the benefits of share offers and community ownership were shared. Generating our own community energy to reduce running costs was a core component of the solution. In April 2017 I led a response to a WEFO call for small scale renewable energy projects and submitted a £1.6 million application showing the communities of Aberfan & Merthyr Vale, while reducing the running costs of its buildings and generating an income for community use, could work towards zero carbon living. The bid was successful at stage 1, with limited support to complete the next stage I formed a Project Board, applied for 20K to develop the business plan. Mobilisation phase of the project starts October 2018. This will enable the community to install solar PV & storage batteries on all its local authority and community buildings as well as a range of business and residential premises. This includes 5 local schools and our main community centre. The wider community interest in the benefit of renewables included the town football stadium and local theatre. Hydro in the weir is still being explored. A CHP is being included for the community swimming pool. The project includes funding for 550 residential properties, communal areas, solar paths, benches, ride on vehicles and solar flowers for a cemetery, EV charger points, ground mounted solar, a skills academy and an elderly home exchange project where elderly people who no longer need their home can exchange it for a single-story power house (PH). The PH produces more energy than it uses and provides utility free living for its residents. The rent from the exchange home covers all the owners’ living costs in the new homes. The EHE is being funded by the Innovative Housing Programme. It is a lift and drop model that can be replicated across Wales – so can the community energy model. Zero Carbon living includes grow your own projects and alternative transport options. We have developed a motivational programme to develop community activists who will take responsibility for the asset-based developments put in place. Sustainability is increased by the area being included in the Skyline feasibility study which looks at the benefits of land and woodland ownership. The project is an excellent example of strategic thinking, collaboration and community expansion.
What is your vision of your region in 2050?
With the current community energy model I designed moving into mobilisation 2018 my vision for 2050 is that Carbon Literacy in the community has progressed to such an extent it now has essential skills status on the curriculum. That learning has enabled young people to act on climate change and enabled community ownership and entrepreneurialism to flourish. Communities now produce more energy than they need and the surplus is used to provide support service. The elderly home exchange service I designed has been replicated in every county. Our elderly people do live longer but they live independently in community settings where their single storey Power Homes mean they live utility free. Expensive care homes have diminished. Power Homes have replaced traditional build and now appear in intergenerational community settings. Fuel Poverty has been eradicated. A grow and sell you own food ethos has revolutionised our shopping priorities. A proactive approach to reversing materialism and commercialism has resulted in the working class people not being slaves to work to feed the money trap they found themselves in. New jobs that maintain our community assets have emerged. The skills to secure those jobs were delivered through practical learning environments that coached young people use their imagination and creativity through hands on learning. People who were not skilled at regurgitating facts no longer feel inferior. Everyone is valued, has something to give and a part to play in community harmony.