ECOE community fund awards showcase Exeter’s commitment to saving energy and fighting fuel poverty


Exeter Community Energy (ECOE) is proud to support local people save energy and fight fuel poverty through our community fund – but this year, the applicants made our life extremely difficult. We had four proposals aiming to inspire children, make energy supplies cleaner and cheaper, and transform how we power our buildings and vehicles. They were hard to choose between, and together they asked for almost three times the £4,100 available from our solar PV generation.

  • Pinhoe Road Baptist Church wanted around £3,000 for more efficient LED lighting for its main hall. The church serves a relatively low income area and needs refurbishment, but doesn’t get funding from the Baptist Union. Funding the lighting would cut their energy bills, helping the environment and their finances.
  • The Music In Devon Initiative (MIDI) wanted £2,750 to put solar PV panels on its home at Tazma Studios in Pinhoe to help cut its high energy bills. The studio hosts various community music efforts, including some involving poor and home-schooled children. Again, funding the panels would help the environment and their finances.
  • Art and Energy wanted at least £1,373 to start running workshops, with a strong emphasis on children, teaching people to build their own solar phone and gadget chargers. This inspiring hands-on on approach would not just reduce energy consumption, it would be more effective in getting people to engage with renewable energy. Another £1,880 would enable them to offer free places to people who can’t afford to come, and help with their promotion.
  • Finally, the Estuary League of Friends wanted £2,448 for a community electric vehicle charge point for Topsham at their new community centre and library building, Nancy Potter House. In the first instance this would provide a service to all electric vehicle makes, other than Tesla, in the underserved area south of central Exeter. But in the future the Estuary League of Friends aims to get electric transportation to decarbonise the 100,000 miles’ worth of rides per year it provides.

All the applicants participated in our collaborative allocation process, ably facilitated by our founding director Gill Wyatt, as well as ECOE members and directors. Each applicant had clear merits, and not being able to fund them fully we had to make tough choices. ‘It was not easy reaching a collective decision about how to allocate the funds,’ says Patrick Devine-Wright, ECOE’s chairperson. ‘More than one applicant volunteered to withdraw in order to maximise allocation to other applicants. That showed tangibly how the inclusive and collective spirit was much in evidence.’

Together, we awarded Art and Energy £1,400, the total amount of their lower request, and the remainder was divided equally between the other applicants. The exciting thing about participative processes is that there is space for the unexpected, and that’s exactly what we got. An ECOE member amazingly identified a source of free second-hand solar panels that could enable MIDI to proceed with their installation despite receiving less money than they asked for. Overall ECOE’s positivity – and how well our collaborative event brought people together to share ideas – was plain to see.