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- Community Energy Fortnight Lobbying Pack 2017
- Community energy is not just what we do, but how we do it - By Ed Mayo, Co-operatives UK
- Community energy, a magic bullet for a multitude of charitable objectives
- How smart technology is empowering rural energy projects
- “It's all still to play for" says Co-op Energy's Head of Renewables
- York Community Energy trip round the panels of Auld Reekie with Edinburgh Community Solar
- The Ramblers: Protecting the places we love to walk in a changing climate
- Why Community Energy Fortnight is so important - By Emma Bridge
- CEF17 is Powering Together!
- Community Energy Fortnight 2017 dates announced and news of a new collaboration
- The community energy revolution is evolving, and the future’s bright
- Investing in community energy schemes
- Energising faith communities: the Spirit project
- Community Energy - the way forward
- CEF16 dates announced
- The community energy revolution pushes on in face of storm clouds
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How smart technology is empowering rural energy projects
Rural communities sometimes draw the short straw when it comes to energy options, with homes that are often less energy efficient and dependent on more expensive heating fuels. The obvious solution would be to harness wind, solar or hydro sources but many rural communities face challenges linked to the limitations of the local distribution network infrastructure. In some cases, local electricity networks cannot accept new connections from renewable energy sources. As a result, in the past local renewables have often not been harnessed and local community energy generation projects deemed too expensive.
However, a new report has discovered that many communities are turning to smart technology, including smart meters, to address the barriers involved in harnessing renewable sources. A Smart Energy Future for Rural Areas, commissioned by Smart Energy GB and carried out by Arad Research, is the latest in a series of reports exploring the transformative potential role of smart meter data in diverse areas of our lives. It investigates several areas in Scotland and Wales which have set up smart community energy projects, using the technology to monitor local networks and stop them from becoming overloaded. In turn, this ‘real-time’ data allows greater control over the network, enabling more community renewable energy projects to come online.
Welcome to our Woods, a not for profit social venture in the upper Rhondda valley, is one such project. The company plans to build a micro hydro energy project to produce electricity that can be used to reduce fuel poverty locally by providing power
for local community buildings and low-income households. The project has identified the potential for installing smart meters in community buildings and social housing in conjunction with the hydro being built. The project hopes that smart meters will enable them to monitor energy use and effectively charge people for the energy they use. Smart data will also be used on the supply side to monitor production and manage generation.
There are many benefits of using smart technology in rural community energy projects and include an improvement in the stability and security of local energy supply, an increase in the use of renewable generation and of energy that is produced locally, and a reduction in consumer costs and fuel poverty.
Another important purpose of smart technology is to encourage behaviour change in householders, leading to a reduction in their energy use. In rural areas, many projects have tried to encourage customers to change their energy use through time-of-use tariffs, lower tariffs for locally produced, renewable energy and capping energy use for households and businesses. In all of these projects, smart technology makes it easy for customers to be aware of their energy use and to change their behaviour as a result. And excitingly, it’s not just residents in rural areas who can benefit from smart technology - the current GB-wide rollout of smart meters, which show you exactly how much energy you are using in pounds and pence, gives everyone the ability to monitor their energy, and could enable further incentive projects to develop.
As programmes such as the Rural Community Energy Fund and Local Energy Challenge Fund develop, the evidence of the benefits of smart technology is likely to become clearer. However, the range of current examples are strong evidence of the positive role that smart technology has to play in the future of rural community energy.
John MacNeil is Head of Policy and Communications in Scotland for Smart Energy GB. Smart meters provide the foundation for a smart grid and are essential in ensuring we have a stable energy system for the future. Contact your energy supplier today about getting your smart meter installed, at no extra cost.