L to R . Nick Bird, Community Engagement Manager, BWCE; Tim Markell, Headteacher, Beechen Cliff School; Wera Hobhouse MP and John Rawlins, Renewable Energy Project Developer, BWCE.
Ever heard of BWCE? It stands for Bath and West Community Energy – a non-profit community-owned business and deeply involved in renewable energy projects.
Just recently, Bath MP Wera Hobhouse visited the organisation’s largest rooftop system to date which was installed last year – during the summer holidays – at Beechen Cliff School.
The system comprises 680 solar panels that provide 262 kilowatts of power to the school. The system is estimated to reduce the school’s carbon emissions by 52 tonnes per year and significantly cut their fuel costs. The Beechen Cliff system is one of six installed by BWCE on schools in Bath, Radstock and Midsomer Norton in 2022.
BWCE is a non-profit community owned business and installed the rooftop solar system for free, so no upfront cost to the school. BWCE owns and manages the system and, crucially during rising fuel costs, sell the generated electricity back to the school at a discount price. This offer is available to schools and other non-domestic buildings, depending on roof size, orientation and onsite energy use all year round, especially in the summer months.
As part of its community benefit mission, BWCE also donates surplus income from its electricity generating projects into the BWCE Fund (set up as an independent charity) which provides grants for community projects reducing carbon emissions and addressing fuel poverty.
So far 82 grants have been given to local organisations including Bath City Farm, The Carers Centre, First Steps Nursery, Bath Share & Repair and Julian House. This year’s 11 grants are due to be announced in the coming weeks.
Wera Hobhouse MP said:
“I am so proud that Beechen Cliff School and BWCE have come together on this vital project, helping both the planet and the wider school community. Community energy schemes such as this are vital to achieving net zero, and have my wholehearted support. Bath has long been a pioneer in this field and once again our area is leading the way. Seeing how the solar panels help raise money for school sets an exciting example for how other public services may benefit from similar projects.”
Tim Markell, Headteacher of Beechen Cliff School said:
“I am really pleased that Bath and West Community Energy are supplying solar panels on a non-profit basis. Our partnership with them is enabling the school to cut carbon emissions and save on rising fuel bills at no capital cost to the school. Ensuring a sustainable future is something our students are passionate about. Our school Eco-Team began a campaign last year for the school to install solar panels and so I am delighted that this has been possible. Further to this, it is great to know that some of the income generated by BWCE is going into other worthwhile community projects through their community fund.”
Peter Capener, Managing Director of BWCE said:
“It’s been exciting to work with Beechen Cliff to deliver our largest solar rooftop scheme to date. Our work with schools is really demonstrating the value of community energy in both addressing the climate crisis and reducing fuel bills. We estimate a total saving of around £125,000 per year across all the schools where we have installed solar during 2022.”
BWCE’s community owned energy model requires local people, businesses and organisations to invest and become members to support more projects like this. The minimum investment is £100 and members get a vote in the organisation and a target annual interest rate of 5% (subject to project performance). For more details and to apply go to www.bwce.coop/invest where you can also watch a short video about BWCE.
You can contact BWCE by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Bath & West Community Energy (BWCE)
BWCE develops community owned renewable energy projects, offering local people the opportunity to invest in local projects, earn a reasonable return and as members have a say in the running of the organisation. BWCE is set up for the benefit of the community and to support local action to reduce the impact of climate change.
Bath & West Community Energy (BWCE) distributes surplus income for community benefit through the Bath & West Community Energy Fund.