ECOE community fund warms Exeter and enters virtual reality

SEADREAM incorporates virtual reality into its environmental education. Now ECOE is funding it to do so for energy efficiency. Image credit: SEADREAM

SEADREAM incorporates virtual reality into its environmental education. Now ECOE is funding it to do so for energy efficiency. Image credit: SEADREAM

Exeter Community Energy (ECOE) has awarded £5,307 in grants to five local groups to make buildings greener – including virtual reality energy efficiency education. ECOE’s community fund provides grants to groups in and near Exeter working on clean energy and fuel poverty. The fund draws on the income from our ten solar power sites, donations from ECOE members and surplus income from our Healthy Homes for Wellbeing project. We expect ECOE’s community fund to make over £170,000 available over the 20-year lifespan of our solar panels.

This year, ECOE had nine applicants for the community fund. We made awards to five groups: Alphington Community Association, Countess Wear Village Hall, Exeter Phoenix, SEADREAM and Whipton Village Hall.

Alphington Community Association

The Alphington Community Association runs the Alphington Village Hall and Community Centre to provide the community with space for activities and social and organised meetings. We awarded this group £1,000 to go towards replacing its noisy blow heaters with thermostatically controlled radiators. This system will help reduce the buildings’ energy consumption, reducing their carbon dioxide emissions and cutting electricity bills. While the original Village Hall is an 1830 building, it was refurbished in 2017, so is well insulated, though the large windows are only double glazed.

Countess Wear Village Hall

The second funding award went to Countess Wear Village Hall, which likewise provides a venue for local people to meet and do things in. Accordingly, we awarded this group £1,307 as part of a match-funded grant to install solar panels and a battery at the hall. The group estimates that the system will mean it cuts its usage of electricity generated elsewhere by about two-thirds. As well as cutting its carbon footprint, that will cut its bills by about £1,000 per year. As such, it will be able to keep the prices to hire the hall lower.

Exeter Phoenix

Thirdly, we awarded funding to Exeter Phoenix, to improve energy efficiency at the contemporary art and music venue’s beautiful building in the city centre. 350,000 people visit the building each year. However, it has 106 large, single-glazed, metal-framed windows. While the windows fill the building with light, they lose a lot of heat in colder months. So, ECOE has awarded the Phoenix £1,000 towards installing secondary glazing on some of the windows.


The fourth award went to SEADREAM, which stands for Science and Engineering Around Devon, Research, Education And More! SEADREAM’s directors are three female doctorates. They are all passionate about inclusivity and accessibility to fun and meaningful Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM). So they deliver inspiring activities across the south west that shatter gender stereotypes and promote care for the environment. They won the Prince of Wales Award for their Ocean Discovery Zone outreach at the Devon County Show in 2022. That included the launch of SEADREAM’s educational activities using virtual reality (VR) headsets.

Now ECOE has awarded SEADREAM £1,500 to produce new educational resources with the theme of energy efficiency. They intend to use these resources in schools and community groups in Exeter. Afterwards, they will bring them to wider community events. Also, SEADREAM would like to collaborate with a farm in Exeter to provide a series of interactive displays and activities. We will hopefully bring this resource to an ECOE event at some point in 2023.

Whipton Community Hall

The fifth award went to Whipton Village Hall, another venue for local people to meet and do things in. A former church built in the 1800s, it has single-glazed leaded windows. The hall has been working to improve its energy efficiency. Now, ECOE has awarded it £500 to install secondary glazing units.

Lenka Hill, the director who had been overseeing ECOE’s community fund, has now stood down. We’d very much like to thank Lenka for all her hard work.