Wales is a largely rural country in the United Kingdom, where it is difficult to make rural buildings energy efficient. Many communities are isolated and often do not have access to energy networks.
Sustainable Communities Wales (SCW) is an energy efficiency programme to encourage Welsh communities to make energy efficiency improvements to their communal buildings – community centres, churches, citizen-led enterprises, charities and social enterprises. Severn Wye is leading a consortium of energy efficiency specialists covering the whole country. This way, communities work with experts that understand their region, their local culture and the supply chains in the local economy – whether they are in a rural or urban area.
Each community is offered free expert support that consists of bills analysis, an energy survey of the community building and a report recommending the behaviours, replacements and retrofit options that will lead to the biggest improvements in energy savings. If they are interested in more complex retrofitting, such as installing on-site renewable energy generation or making big changes to their building – then SCW can offer free specialist support and feasibility studies. These feasibility studies have led to some clients receiving funding from their local authorities to install solar PV on their roofs.
Communities often find it difficult to take advantage of energy efficiency opportunities because it is difficult for groups of private individuals to raise the money required to make big changes. To address this, SCW’s consortium includes a Community Finance company who offer participants an interest-free loan that takes their circumstances and income into account to make sure that the changes they make are affordable for the community. Even without these, a number of our clients are using the report and recommendations to apply for funding from other organisations – particularly where the improvements being made will save the communities money and help them get more use out of their communal buildings.
Sustainable Communities Wales will work with 150 communities across the country until March 2021, and aims to significantly influence the way communities think, act and relate to the energy they use.