BIG changes come from lots of small steps – that’s the driving philosophy behind an organisation determined to make Basingstoke one of the greenest places in the country.
The Basingstoke Community Energy Fund Society, created by the Basingstoke Transition Network green movement, wants to see the borough slash its carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.
Local residents Martin Heath, from Brookvale, and Andy Molloy, from Old Basing, are two of the driving forces behind the co-operative and they firmly believe that the goal is achievable if residents, businesses, communities, and the council all start to do their bit.
The Transition Network says a key way to cut the amount of global-warming greenhouse gas emissions is for more people to turn towards renewable energy to power the town’s homes and businesses, as well as upgrading buildings to save energy costs.
“Basingstoke spends £550million a year for its energy,” said Martin, quoting statistics from the Government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change.
“Where does all that money ultimately go? – City hedge funds, sheikhs, and oil oligarchs. In our view, Basingstoke can easily make more than 20 per cent of that energy itself, and save £110m a year. We believe an average home in the town can reduce its energy bill by £1,000 a year.”
This saving can be achieved in a myriad of different ways. This includes insulating homes properly to curb the amount of heat loss and, on a more ambitious scale, through community owned-renewable energy projects.
That is where the Basingstoke Community Energy Fund Society comes in.
The soon-to-be-launched scheme relies on lots of people making a relatively small contribution. It works by individuals or community groups investing cash into the co-operative. This amount can be between £500 and £20,000.
The money is pooled into the Basingstoke Community Energy Fund where each investor has a say on how the money is spent.
By pooling funds, money is raised to pay for a renewable energy project – such as creating a solar farm on a warehouse roof.
The electricity generated will be used to power the building, and excess electricity is supplied back to the National Grid, resulting in the Government paying the co-operative Feed-in-Tariffs – a Government scheme which pays for energy produced from renewable energy.
The surplus cash that is generated is returned to investors as well as put back into the community-run cash pot to fund further schemes.
“Community schemes are the best way forward for many of us,” said Martin. He added that co-operatives open up renewable technology to everyone. “They allow anyone to invest in them.”
The scheme hinges on the community coming together. While solar energy is becoming increasingly popular, Martin estimates that installing solar panels on to homes is out of reach, or not suitable, for many residents.
“In the majority of cases, people just don’t have the money, or the right kind of roof, to install solar panels themselves,” said Martin. “A community-run project overcomes this. It gives the people of Basingstoke the potential to invest in the future of the borough.”
* You can find out more about the Basingstoke Transition Network, and its associated organisations, by going to basingstoketransition.org or bes.coop.