Will Cottrell, Brighton Energy Co=operative

Across Britain, there’s a movement taking place – one that puts energy at the heart of UK communities. Groups of people are banding together to form renewable energy co-operatives, making use of their local, natural resources to fuel their power  needs.

The evolution of locally-owned renewable energy is a movement that Brighton Energy Co-operative (BEC) Chairman Will Cottrell knows well. He was inspired to set up a community energy scheme after a cross-country trip in Denmark introduced him to the potential of energy co-operatives.

“Every town I passed seemed to have its own wind turbine” explained Will. “I found out that the communities got together to form co-operatives, giving them the financial means to buy turbines for themselves.” Will started thinking about what similar things he could do himself and the idea for BEC was born.

“As more people tune into the social and environmental benefits of clean, green energy generation, we wanted to give them the opportunity to benefit from the power that’s available in their local environment” says Will. “Since we started operating in 2011, we’ve developed three sites that host solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and in the last 18 months, they’ve generated a combined 192,000kWh – saving the hosts a total of £6,300 on their electricity bills.”

BEC currently sells the surplus electricity exported from two of their community owned PV sites to Good Energy, through our SmartGen scheme. “We wouldn’t choose to work with anyone other than Good Energy – you pick up the phone quickly, have great technical knowledge and make the export process really easy and flexible.” These profits have benefitted the wider Brighton community, with savings being invested back into local projects and activities.

As well as providing a financial return for the Brighton community, BEC gives people a way to take action on an issue they care about – climate change. Will explains “for those frustrated by the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels, particularly fracking, which is a big issue in Brighton – it gives them an opportunity to do something tangible and positive with the assets they’ve got to make a difference politically and environmentally.”

Will sees the increasing cost of fossil fuel imports and the rise in demand for renewable energy as a trend that’s set to continue. ‘I think it’ll be the case that in a few years, the renewable energy that we’re generating is going to be cheaper than conventional fuels.”

 As well as generating their own via community groups and saving money in the process, Will encourages people to turn to green energy suppliers – “those like Good Energy, who match every unit of electricity used with 100% British renewable stuff.”

Will and the rest of the Brighton Energy Cooperative have big plans for the roofs of Brighton, aiming to install solar on seven buildings in the City before summer 2014. With savings like they’ve already achieved, we look forward to finding out how BEC can add further value to local communities over the coming months. 

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