ECOE’s history and future

Solar PV 1-4
The original ECOE Team

The original ECOE Team

In 2015 and 2016 we successfully completed eight rooftop solar sites in solar PV1 and 2. Together they have a peak power output of 408.1 kilowatts (kWp). In 2020 we successfully completed two rooftop solar sites that together are rated at 75.8kWp under solar PV3. We are now working on developing new sites in solar PV4. For full details visit this page.

Healthy Homes for Wellbeing

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Our Healthy Homes for Wellbeing project started in November 2017. Since then, it has provided free energy and money saving advice. This project includes home visits for those who are eligible in Exeter, Mid Devon, East Devon, Teignbridge and Torbay, funded by The Local Energy Advice Partnership (LEAP). LEAP in turn is funded primarily by energy suppliers’ regulated obligations, namely the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and Warm Home Discount (WHD). Healthy Homes for Wellbeing has also received funding from the Big Energy Saving Network (BESN) and Western Power Distribution’s South West Affordable Warmth fund. Project estimates suggest that Healthy Homes for Wellbeing saves clients an enormous amount of money. It also enables similarly large greenhouse gas emission savings. For our 2019-2020 financial year, the financial savings to clients were estimated at £820,000. For full details visit the Healthy Homes for Wellbeing page.

Community fund

The ECOE community fund has supported helping schoolchildren to learn about community energy

An important part of ECOE’s business model is the community fund that distributes our solar power income. We expect to provide over £170,000 over the lifetimes of the sites. The community fund supports efforts to address the twin challenges of climate emergency and social justice.

Currently, only community groups can apply to the fund. Our intent is that members, the local community and directors assess applications. Until the 2019 community fund we used a participative process to decide which projects to support. This involved large co-operative meetings. However the board is uncertain that this allocates funds in the most appropriate way. For the 2020 fund we had planned to run a smaller meeting with fewer representatives from stakeholder groups. However we received applications for less than the total amount of funding available, so there was no need to choose between different options. We are also planning to review whether the focus on community groups excludes people we might otherwise like to reach.

What our applicants have used the fund to do includes:

  • Powering a portable solar-powered sound system used by the Music In Devon Initiative.
  • Pinhoe Road Baptist Church installing LED lighting.
  • Art and Energy running creative solar art workshops.
  • Estuary League of Friends installing the first electric vehicle charging point in Topsham.
  • Seadream Education running three classes about climate change across two Exeter schools over the pandemic period.
  • TRIP Community Transport supporting those with limited mobility during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For full details visit our community fund page.

Future projects

ECOE remains committed to fighting climate change and fuel poverty through renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. ECOE now holds an annual strategy review for decisions around future projects in a rapidly changing political environment. As part of that process, in 2020 we committed to producing an updated business plan every two years.

Our current strategy considers the following opportunities most important:

Rooftop solar

With FiTs no longer being available, we are investigating new business models for solar projects. We are currently in discussion for several sites, but progress is slow due to the pandemic.

Large scale generation

ECOE is a shareholder of Devon Energy, which has three potential large-scale ground-mounted solar projects near Exeter. All of them have stalled due to the pandemic. However there is a definite chance that these could proceed in the medium term. Devon Energy would take the lead in raising funds but ECOE can participate. ECOE will receive the community fund originating from these projects. Currently it seems that Devon Energy will lead this, but we must plan to get involved when needed.

Green retrofit

We have launched an enquiry form seeking interest from people looking to retrofit energy efficiency measures in their homes. This is attracting a lot of enquiries. We are therefore looking to build on the green retrofit approach adopted by Carbon Coop. As such we are training three retrofit coordinators. We are considering linking with one main retrofit installer to perform the work on these projects. ECOE would advise to ensure that residents get the greatest benefit. See more on our retrofit webpage here.

EV charging

Installing chargers at our solar generation sites could provide great synergy. It would increase the amount of energy used on site, while enabling the uptake of low-emission vehicles. Pinhoe Road Baptist Church has shown interest in being a lead site for this after it completes ongoing renovations. In addition, there is also potential to work with Co Cars on this project. Co Cars is involved in the StreetHUBZ project and has discussed over whether Gamma Energy, one of the StreetHUBZ partners, might raise money through ECOE.

Legacy projects
Trews Weir is not a happy place for ECOE

Trews Weir is not a happy place for ECOE

In May 2016 ECOE won a Urban Community Energy Award of almost £20,000 to explore a community heat project in Exeter. Later, after working on this project for a year, we set it aside due to a lack of interest from partner sites. For full details click here.

In another project, in 2016 Exeter City Council gave us the go-ahead to look into the viability of a hydro project on the River Exe at Trews Weir. Unfortunately, due to legal issues we had to set aside the project in 2018. Click here for full details .

In 2018 and 2019 we worked with Open LV to develop a smartphone app. This enabled people to see how their energy use has an effect on the local grid. For full details visit the Open LV website here.