If you are one of those people who want to go renewable, but are not sure how to go about it, Transition Maidenhead may have the answer. The group has set up a co-op to help people navigate the minefield of renewable technologies and take advantage of new Government legislation which rewards householders for going solar. And you can raise much needed funds for your Transition Town at the same time. Cindy Barnes, one of The Smart Energy Co-op’s founders, explains how it works.
Q: What were your aim in setting up the Co-op?
We all share the long term aim of wanting to create local jobs, in local communities across the UK, providing renewable energy. Our values mean we will be equitable, ethical, open and community enabling. At a more practical level, we’re all about helping people find the best renewable energy solution for them, at the lowest cost.
A: How do you do this?
We find out where there are a group of people in one area who want renewables, then if we don’t have an approved installer in that area already, we research installers and go through a tender process. We select an installer, negotiate group discounts and oversee the installation process. Depending on the area we will do the site survey and technical survey on behalf of the installer.
Currently we are doing this with solar thermal, solar PV and biomass boilers. Depending on installation numbers the discounts can vary from between 5% to 25%. Then we support householders throughout the process.
Q: Why’s this a good time to go solar?
A: The feed-in tariff for solar PV and other renewables kicked in on 1st April this year. This means you get paid 41.3p per kWh (similar to a unit) of electricity generated for domestic use. Plus you will save money on your current bills plus you will be paid an extra amount (3p) for every unit you sell back to the grid that you don’t use yourself.
From April 2011 the renewable heat incentive (RHI) kicks in which means that for an average sized house you will be paid £250 per year plus you will save about £50 on your current bills.
Q: So it will actually save me money?
A: Yes as well as being good for the environment and earning an income, you would cut your bills at the same time.
Q: How do I go about it?
A: Well first of all visit our website it www.smartenergy.coop. You can sign up there expressing your interest, it doesn’t commit you to anything. Then we match you with other interested people in your area. We’ll also give you material to encourage your neighbours and friends to get involved, the more people who get on board, the more everyone saves.
Q: How much money will I have to outlay at the start?
A: That depends on whether you want to wait for a group discount or not, and also whether you want a financing option or not. The good news is that if you are over 60 and a home owner, you are eligible for a 3.5% home improvement loan that is attached to your property and renewable are eligible. The government loan scheme, Pay As You Save, operated by the energy companies and the banks is due to come in in 2012.
Sadly the grants have now ended and legally installers can only ask for a 25% deposit with the balance payable upon final commissioning.
Q: When will I start saving money?
A: You’ll be saving money straight from your first bill – how much depends on how much you spend. And by becoming a member of the co-op you share in any surplus money made – which you can plough back into your Transition Town funds.
Q: How will I know if my home is suitable?
For solar, either thermal or PV, you’ll need a roof that faces S, SW or SE or enough south facing land for a ground mounted system. There is a survey form on the website you can fill in and return to us.
Q: Sounds brilliant. Is there anything I can do to help the Co-op?
A: You could become a local or regional co-ordinator. We would love Transition Towns around the UK to act as local hubs, mobilising local buying groups in your areas.
Find out more and get involved at www.smartenergy.coop or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Or tel: 01628 487 817