Letter to James Heappey MP

On May 7th, James Heappey was elected as the new MP for the Wells Constituency, which covers the majority of the area we operate within. Our concern is that the new Conservative administration will continue their slow stranglehold on renewables, expressing instead through their actions, their support for the big energy companies and macro-solutions to the country’s energy issues.
Mr Heappey stated in one of the local hustings that he supported the development of Hinckley Point C and would do all he could to ensure it happened. Given this, we decided to write to Mr Heappey to see what his views on renewable energy in our area are.
Dear James,
 Congratulations on your election as MP for the Wells Constituency. I am sure you will do a marvellous job in the role and look forward to hearing more on your ideas for the community at large.
I am writing in my capacity as Community Engagement Officer for Avalon Community Energy Ltd (ACE). We are a locally-based renewable energy cooperative based in the Wells and Glastonbury area. In case you’re not aware, community energy groups are set-up to install and maintain community-owned renewable energy systems with the aim of recirculating all profits from the Feed-In Tariff and sales of energy to the grid, back into the community. Though a limited company, we are registered with the FCA as a Community Benefit Society,  which means we are not-for-profit with a board of volunteer directors drawn from our membership. We believe this model is a viable and positive alternative to the standard use of FITs, which often equate as subsidies to business with the money leaving the community and no tangible benefits locally.
ACE is currently working on a number of exciting local projects including a school in Street and a large industrial estate outside Shepton Mallet aiming to become an ‘Energy Park’ and hub for green tech businesses, with agreements in place to install our first roof-mounted solar energy panels this year. We believe that rooftops are the least controversial of all renewable energy options available to us at the current time, as they rightly make use of dormant industrial, community and commercial rooftops to generate power largely used by building tenants and users. We’re also in discussions over part-ownership of an Anaerobic Digester and a project involving using waste heat from a power plant for use in ‘hydroponics’, a form of food production.
I am writing to you to clarify your own perspectives on renewable energy use in our constituency and whether you will be supportive of the current policies around Feed-In Tariffs and community-generated energy in general. Over 5000 community-energy groups have sprung up since 2008 according to DECC figures, with services ranging from energy generation through to promoting energy efficiency measures and grant-funding. Will you be supportive of the work of ACE and organisations such as ourself, aiming to create a future-proof and resilient localised energy network for the constituency?
 As you may know, Western Power Distribution have recently called a halt to new large renewable energy installations, due to grid capacity issues. One cause of this is ‘grid-banking’ – the purchasing of grid connections by companies speculating on projects that may never go ahead, as well as purchasing larger connections than they intend to use. This situation is leading rapidly to a crisis for community energy groups and other firms involved in this growing industry. We believe that a diverse energy sector is essential for our country to flourish and ensure that consumers get a fair deal on energy prices. Will you work, as our constituency MP, to ensure that ACE and other groups are able to get access to grid connections and help build Wells and Glastonbury as a hub of renewable energy technologies and innovation whilst also generating much needed funds for the local community?
Thanks so much for your time in reading this. I am sure there is a lot to think about and do in the next days and weeks, as you settle in to your new role.
Yours sincerely,
Avalon Community Energy (ACE)

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