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  • June Newsletter 2024

    Quarterly update on Heart of England Community Energy’s performance and community impact. 1. Performance update After an unusually cloudy spring, our electricity generation fell short of projections by 6.02% this quarter, with sunshine levels 8.35% below the projected average. March proved particularly tough, yielding only 1,080MWh, 16% less than projected, mainly due to unseasonably bad weather. Nonetheless, despite these challenges, our sites operated smoothly without encountering any significant technical issues affecting our generation. 2. Community Impact £40,000+ allocated through the Community Grant Fund Over the past year, our Community Benefit Fund has supported 8 local organisations in Stratford upon-Avon and nearby areas. Among the notable donations: · £3,600 to Bidford on Avon Parish Council for a new Community Fridge and Café, which rescued 1.2 tonnes of food in April 2024 alone! £9,000 to Stratford upon Avon Foodbank to bolster their Christmas Hampers project and sustain ongoing efforts. £2,500 to RSPCA Coventry and District for the Pet Food to Food Banks project. £800 to Napton Environmental Action Team (NEAT) for the purchase of a thermal imaging camera, aiding in the identification of poor insulation, draughts, and damp in local buildings. £5,000 to The Crafty Lunch Club CIC for weekly activities for adults with disabilities and their carers. Through our Community Benefit Fund, HECE aims to alleviate fuel poverty, reduce carbon emissions, and enhance the well-being of socially disadvantaged communities. If you have a project eligible for funding from HECE's Community Benefit Fund or Carbon Reduction Fund, please reach out to info@hecommunityenergy.org. Tackling Fuel Poverty Conclusion of HECE’s funding for Act on Energy’s Complex Case Worker: Impact and Legacy March 2024 marked the conclusion of HECE's two-year project funding Act on Energy's complex case worker in South Warwickshire. Over this period, our funding directly helped 256 individuals through personalised home visits, supported 467 individuals with intensive phone/web-based aid, and facilitated over 147 referrals to partner organisations. The cumulative impact of these efforts amounts to £226,541 in energy efficiency savings and estimated financial gains! Undoubtedly, the project has been a success, providing support and advocacy to numerous vulnerable fuel-poor households across South Warwickshire. Most importantly, HECE’s funding has acted as a catalyst for the Stratford and Warwick District Councils to initiate their own community-based provision. These councils are now funding Act on Energy to run complex caseworker projects directly, expanding the project further! Funding for Citizens Advice South Warwickshire HECE remains committed to funding CASW, ensuring vital support reaches those who need it most. We do this through two key avenues: supporting their grants administration team and providing a hardship fund. Our funding for CASW's admin team, equivalent to 64% of their administrative hours last quarter, enabled the distribution of 44 grants, totalling over £7,870! Our hardship funding has contributed £15,000 over the past year. This enables CASW to assist individuals facing hardship, covering more essential items such as food vouchers, clothing, and appliances like fridge/freezers, washing machines, and cookers. Great Big Green Week in Startford-upon-Avon Join the UK’s biggest celebration of community action to tackle climate change and protect nature this week! The Great Big Green Week started on Saturday, 8th of June and runs until Sunday, 16th of June with over 25 eco-events across Stratford-upon-Avon and surrounding areas. Expect talks, walks, and family-friendly activities organised by climate action groups and charities to raise awareness and inspire community involvement. There are still a few tickets available for a free tour of our solar farm on Friday, 14th June at 3.30pm! Book your spot now and explore a working solar farm, learn about energy generation, and discover our biodiversity efforts. Solar Soft Loans Solar Soft Loans will help HECE turn surplus income generated from our community solar farm into solar panels on the roofs of local schools and community buildings. Our aim is to help organisations that would not have the funds to do it themselves, to install solar panels. The repayment of the Solar Soft Loan is based on a share of the actual cost savings. We will reinvest the loan repayments to create a revolving legacy fund to help fund further local low-carbon projects.

  • Great Big Green Week Coming to Stratford-upon-Avon

    Join the UK’s biggest celebration of community action to tackle climate change and protect nature. The Great Big Green Week runs from Saturday, 8th to Sunday, 16th of June with more than 25 eco-events taking place across the Stratford-upon-Avon and the surrounding areas. During the week, climate action campaign groups and charities will host a variety of talks, walks, and family-friendly activities to raise awareness about climate change and explore how communities can come together to make a difference. Most events are free but require booking via Eventbrite. As part of the Great Big Green Week, Heart of England Community Energy is offering a tour of our solar farm near Stratford-upon-Avon on Friday, 14th June at 3.30pm. Get up close to a solar farm in action and learn how power is exported to the grid. See how panels and inverters work including what's been generated on the day. Also, discover how the land is managed to improve biodiversity! The tour usually takes between 45 minutes to an hour. Feel free to ask us anything about solar energy. To book your spot for the solar farm please click here! Discover the diverse range of local events and activities happening near you by diving into the full Great Big Green Week leaflet below.

  • Heart of England Community Energy donates £40,000+ to support communities in need

    Heart of England Community Energy (HECE) continues to channel funding into helping our community reduce its energy consumption and supporting those struggling with the cost of living. Over the last 12 months, the Community Benefit Fund has supported 8 local charitable and community organisations in Stratford-upon-Avon and the surrounding areas. These small grants have directly benefited hundreds of families in need. A donation of £15,000 to Citizens Advice South Warwickshire has enabled the organisation to create a hardship fund to distribute food vouchers, school uniform, white goods and support households with the cost of energy bills and utilities. The support we’ve provided has undoubtedly helped lightened the burden for local families during what has been a financially challenging year. The Crafty Lunch Club received £5,000 to support weekly socialisation, crafts, and themed meals for adults with disabilities and their careers. This project aims to combat isolation and help people with a learning disabilities to feel happier, included and confident! RSPCA Coventry and District Branch got a £2,500 contribution towards the Pet Food to Food Banks project, the project collects pet food donations and delivers them to food banks for owners and animals in need. The cost-of-living crisis means the service is more in demand than ever. The Stratford-upon-Avon Foodbank received £9,000 to bolster their Christmas Hampers project and sustain ongoing efforts. This year, our donation supported the creation of 421 Christmas hampers, brimming with delights like Christmas puddings, cakes, beverages, festive gifts, and essential tinned goods. These hampers benefited 569 adults and 584 children in our community. Further contributions included £3,600 to Bidford on Avon Parish Council for the establishment of a new Community Fridge and Café, aimed at reducing food waste and providing meals to those in need. The Community Fridge and Café is now open on Monday, Tuesday & Thursday mornings, alongside Wednesday evenings. In April 2024 alone, they successfully rescued 1.2 tonnes of food from being wasted! HECE also granted the Napton Environmental Action Team £800 to purchase a thermal imaging camera, aiding in the identification of poor insulation, draughts, and damp in local buildings. Lastly, Shipston Town Council received £600 to conduct energy assessments on three buildings and Hampton Manga Pre-school received £3,600 to enhance their outdoor areas, enriching opportunities for active learning and play. Through the Community Benefit Fund, HECE continues to deploy funds to the community in order to fund projects which support and enable people to remove themselves from fuel poverty and improve the well-being of socially disadvantaged people or communities. The hope is that this support has the triple advantage of reducing fuel poverty, cutting carbon emissions and improving the health of those suffering from fuel poverty. John Stott, Chair of HECE explained "It's very pleasing to be able to use the money earned by selling solar electricity to support those within our community who are in need. This shows how an energy system aimed at combating climate breakdown can also play a pivotal role in addressing societal injustices, helping to right the wrongs in society". If you have a project that you think might be eligible for funding from either HECE's Community Benefit Fund or Carbon Reduction Fund, then please contact info@hecommunityenergy.org.

  • Fuelling Hope: Our support for Act on Energy's Complex Case Worker initiative

    Over the past two years, Heart of England Community Energy (HECE) has allocated over £70,000 to support Act on Energy's Complex Case Worker initiative, addressing the impact of rising bills amidst the cost-of-living crisis in Warwickshire. The impact of the relentless rise in living costs over the past two years has been deeply felt in our local communities. The onset of the cost-of-living crisis in 2022 sharply increased the prices of energy, food and essential items, exacerbating the struggle for many individuals to make ends meet, keep their homes warm and manage escalating energy expenses effectively. HECE took action by committing to fund a new two-year project with Act on Energy (AoE), totalling over £70,000! AoE, an energy advice charity operating across Warwickshire, have been pivotal in providing essential aid to households navigating these challenges. Our funding, allowed AoE to launch their "Complex Case Worker" programme in South Warwickshire. The "Complex Case Worker" initiative is designed to offer personalised assistance to vulnerable individuals, ensuring they have the time, space, and support needed to navigate their energy needs. By providing information and guidance on energy saving, and facilitating access to essential grants, this initiative aims to ease the financial strain of energy costs for local residents. Moreover, it places a strong emphasis on promoting warmer and more comfortable living conditions, addressing the root causes of fuel poverty head-on. We are delighted to share the remarkable success of AOE's initiative in our community over the past two years: Supporting a total of 723 households against a target of 400, the project has exceeded our expectations. Susan Juned, one of HECE's directors and a district councillor, shared her perspective: “I am also a district councillor in a Ward where many residents have needed assistance with heating bills and costs. Often the cases are complex and require assistance from a number of other services. The complex case worker has been really helpful in helping people to seek other sources of advice and grants to meet the cost of living or improve their housing problems as well as helping them to reduce or pay for their immediate heating bills. I have been very grateful for the support that has been given.” The project's impact is best illustrated through stories like Emma A's* and Henry's*. Emma A faced challenges with osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia while dealing with financial strains renting a flat with her partner. A crucial turning point came when AOE's complex case worker, Alvynne, stepped in. Alvynne's compassionate support not only secured a £300 fuel payment from HECE but also provided essential energy-saving measures such as a slow cooker, draughtproofing, radiator foils, and energy-saving lightbulbs, significantly improving Emma's quality of life. Beyond practical assistance, Alvynne also offered energy efficiency advice, enrolling Emma in the Priority Services Register, and referring her for a fire safety check “Thank you so much for your help. I'm so happy for the help all you kind people do.” - Emma A Henry, a proud 80-year-old homeowner in Stratford, has lived alone since his spouse passed away a decade ago. But just lately, by his own admission he has become withdrawn and is struggling to keep on top of things. When Henry met Susan, a complex case worker from Act on Energy, at a local drop-in service, she quickly arranged to visit him at home. Immediately Susan could feel the cold interior and noticed that bills had remained unopened, piling up on the sideboard. After spending time ensuring Henry understood the advice and guidance that was going to make a real difference to his wellbeing, Susan applied for a new heating grant to address his faulty system. As a temporary fix, Sun fitted some small energy-efficient measures such as a draught excluder, new light bulbs, and provided a heated blanket. Susan also coordinated with Henry's energy suppliers to fit smart meters and clear debt with the help of a small grant. Henry is looking forward to a brand new heating system but is already full of gratitude to Susan. “I call her super Susan. She’s made such a difference. I had no idea I’d be entitled to a new heating system; it will be great to get some warmth again all over and not just in this room. I’m so thankful that she spoke to the energy companies – I suppose I was just in denial hoping it would all get sorted somehow.  Thank you, Susan, you’re a wonder” - Henry * to maintain confidentiality, "Emma A" and "Henry" are not their real names The impact of the project has been significant because, as a result of  HECE’s funding, evidence of need for this type of project was clearly demonstrated. So much so, that both Stratford and Warwick District Councils have now committed to funding similar projects. As we celebrate the success of this initiative, HECE takes pride in paving the way for projects mitigating fuel poverty in our area, and looks forward to their continued growth and success. The entire HECE board extends sincere thanks to all at AoE who made this initiative possible.

  • Blooming Biodiversity: UK study highlights solar park's positive impact on bees and butterflies

    New research reveals that well-managed UK solar parks can provide essential resources to combat the decline of bee and butterfly populations. A new study led by scientists at Lancaster University, in collaboration with the University of Reading, sheds light on the potential of UK solar parks to bolster bee and butterfly populations, if managed correctly. Published in Ecological Solutions and Evidence, the research provides the first peer-reviewed field data on insect pollinators at 15 solar park sites across the UK. The increased numbers and biodiversity of pollinators within solar parks were mostly attributed to the presence of a wider range of flowering plant species. As pollinating insects face alarming declines, the study emphasises that solar parks offer a promising avenue to restore crucial resources for these species. This is exactly what Heart of England Community Energy’s land management plan aims to do and we are carrying out annual surveys to confirm progress. "Pollinating insects such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies have been in dramatic decline in recent years and there is a need to restore more resources for these species in our landscapes. One potential option is to use sites such as solar parks to help benefit biodiversity – however, until now empirical evidence has been lacking around how, and which, solar parks might best support pollinators." Hollie Blaydes, Study Lead Author and Senior Research Associate, Lancaster University Read the full study details: 'On-site floral resources and surrounding landscape characteristics impact pollinator biodiversity at solar parks.'

  • Applications Now Open: Join the Board of Directors at Heart of England Community Energy

    Heart of England Community Energy (HECE) is currently seeking applications from individuals interested in joining our board of directors. Kindly note that the application deadline is February 19th, 2024. Prompt applications are advised! 1. What will you be doing? A particular challenge we have at the moment is the distribution of profits to deserving causes. We also recognise that ultimately, a new director may assume the role of chair, so experience in this area would be welcome. However, this is a multifaceted role with many aspects, as described in the next section. 2. What are we looking for? Essential Experience in managing organisations at a senior level, Analytical and evaluation skills, demonstrating good judgement. Good communication and leadership skills. Commitment to reducing carbon pollution. Desirable Knowledge of solar farms or solar energy systems. Either knowledge of grant giving to charitable and other organisations or expertise in social media. Familiarity and understanding of accounts. Knowledge of land management to promote biodiversity. Experience in business development. Promotion of the business and publicity. 3. What difference will you make? As well as being board members, new directors will be asked to join one of the subgroups of the board which make recommendations to the whole board. You will thereby have the satisfaction of steering the direction of the company. For example, helping to ensure that increased carbon reduction activities generate more income or have the satisfaction of making certain that profits are maximised and then distributed to help as many disadvantaged people as possible. This is an opportunity to bring new thinking to the board of Heart of England Community Energy. The opportunity is now listed on Reach. For further details and to submit your application, please click the button below:

  • Grant Support for Citizens Advice

    Heart of England Community Energy (HECE) is proud to provide money to Citizens Advice South Warwickshire (CASW), a local charity making a significant impact. CASW provides free, impartial and confidential advice on various issues, and HECE supports their grants program by funding their admin needs. The grants finance necessities, furniture, clothing, heating, and household appliances, all of which make a significant positive impact on the lives of individuals facing financial hardships. This collaboration is a direct and effective way for us to contribute to the well-being of our community, ensuring that CASW can continue providing essential help. During the last quarter, the support from HECE covered 64% of the hours worked by the charity's admin team, who identify and facilitate grant funding. As a result of this direct support, our community energy group has made a significant difference by granting £8,631.58 in essential items and appliances to 42 residents facing hardship. The washing machines, cookers, fridges, and furniture we've assisted in providing have undoubtedly lightened the burden during what has been a financially challenging year. For information on help that may be available please click the link to visit CASW website

  • Shining Light in 2023: Our Christmas Hamper Donation

    2023 has been a year of difficulty and hardship for many in our local communities. In the build up to Christmas, we once again proudly donated to Stratford Upon Avon Foodbank. This year, our £6000 donation supported the Foodbank in creating 421 Christmas hampers filled with treats such as Christmas puddings, cakes, beverages, festive gifts, and essential tinned goods. The hampers will benefit 569 adults and 584 children. Christmas can be a difficult time for people who are struggling financially. While some of us are fortunate enough to enjoy festive treats, others find they will have to go without. No one should go without during the festive season, and our donation was a small step towards making a big difference. Caroline Sampson, Assistant Manager and Operational Lead of Stratford upon Avon Foodbank said: "The demand on Stratford-upon-Avon Foodbank has increased in 2023 and we are now feeding on average 434 people a month, which is a 35% on figures from this time last year. We knew the nominations from local support agencies for our Christmas hampers would be popular so it was important to source funding to ensure we could produce them. The Heart of England Community Energy has very generously given £6000 and funded 48% of the project!  On behalf of the Trustees, staff and volunteers, I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks for your kindness. The hampers were a great success. We gave out 421 hampers which will benefit 569 adults and 584 children this Christmas time. Thank you so much Heart of England for your unwavering support." About Heart of England Community Energy: Heart of England Community Energy is a community benefit society. We own one of the UK's largest community solar farms, a 15-megawatt array just outside Stratford-upon-Avon. We channel the surplus income from our solar farm into supporting those facing challenges with the cost of living. We also fund initiatives that help our community reduce its energy consumption. As a not-for-profit enterprise, our goal is to bring the benefits of local energy to the Heart of England region. Discover how you can benefit from our local energy services and grant funding: https://www.hecommunityenergy.org/local-energy-services-and-funding

  • Autumn Newsletter 2023

    Solar Farm Performance In the previous quarter, July to September, production was slightly below projections by 0.77%. July was the worst performing month with unseasonably poor weather resulting in a 9.35% underperformance on projections. However, August and September exceeded expectations by 8.76% and 0.31% respectively. Despite varying sunlight levels, our sites operated well without any major technical issues. Community Impact In our most recent October round of community grant funding, HECE supported the Napton Environmental Action Team by funding a thermal imaging camera for surveying heat losses in local buildings. Additionally we dedicated £2,500 each to the RSPCA Coventry for their Pet Food to Food Banks project and Hampton Manga Pre-school for crucial improvements to their outdoor area. HECE also contributed £3,600 towards establishing a new Community Fridge and Café in Bidford on Avon. Applications are reviewed quarterly. If you, or an organisation you know are looking for extra funding support, click here to visit our Community Grant Funding Page. Introducing our 'Solar Soft Loan' scheme HECE are pleased to announce the launch of 'Solar Soft Loans' for community organisations and schools! Our aim is to help organisations that would not have the funds to do it themselves, to install solar panels, LED lighting and other energy saving measures. To find out about how Solar Soft Loans work, click here. You can download a copy of the Autumn 2023 newsletter below.

  • HECE launches 'Solar Soft Loan' scheme

    HECE are pleased to announce the launch of 'Solar Soft Loans' for community organisations and schools! Our aim is to help organisations that would not have the funds to do it themselves, to install solar panels, LED lighting and other energy-saving measures. Learn More: For detailed insights into how solar soft loans work, please visit our dedicated Solar Soft Loan Webpage.

  • Summer Newsletter 2023

    Performance update In the months from July 22 - June 23, the solar array generated 15,187 MWh, enough energy to power over 5,000 homes for a year. A big contributor to these high generation levels was April - June 23, with the sites generating 5.48% higher than predictions as a result of strong irradiance levels. Community Benefit Fund projections As a result of favourable power sales agreements, forecasts estimate that HECE's surplus income will exceed £1 million within the next 3 years. These surplus funds will be distributed as community grants to alleviate fuel poverty, reduce carbon emissions and empower the local community's journey to Net Zero. We will notify the Heart of England Community Energy shareholders and supporters when the funding rounds are next open. If you have an idea ready to share, please express your interest by emailing HECE. Great Big Green Week - site visit As part of Stratford-upon-Avon’s Great Big Green Week (which featured community events across 10 days) Heart of England provided a site visit for the local community. This was a great opportunity to raise awareness about community energy, and was the first time on a solar farm for many! We hope to provide more awareness raising opportunities in the local area. You can download a copy of the Summer 2023 newsletter below.

  • Supporting the Mali Walas with SolarAid

    Heart of England Community Energy (HECE) fund projects that work to reduce fuel poverty in their local area and overseas. An annual beneficiary of HECE are Solar Aid, who work to improve access to electricity in rural sub-Saharan Africa by providing solar-powered lights for communities. Read on to find out more about Solar Aid, and the impact Heart of England made for rural African communities in 2022-23. Who are SolarAid SolarAid is an international charity founded in 2006 to combat poverty and climate change. Through their social enterprise, SunnyMoney, they provide access to solar lights in Malawi and Zambia to help catalyse solar markets with renewable light. This allows money to be reinvested back into our work, encourages job creation and ensures money stays in the local economy. Distributing solar lights allows communities to ‘leapfrog’ nationwide grid electrification, which is unlikely to ever reach the rural landscapes of sub-saharan African communities. Instead, solar lights are safe, clean and affordable. They are a small, but smart innovation that provide hours of light in the evening so families can earn, learn and feel safe after dark. The solar lights often replace kerosene lamps which gives benefit multiply by reducing carbon pollution, improving air quality, making homes safer (at less risk of fire) and improving the quality of light so children can study for longer. Supporting SolarAid Heart of England support the work of Solar Aid, which provides clean and safe light to communities across Africa. SolarAid’s mission aligns with that of Heart of England Community Energy as they work to eradicate fuel poverty and hardship. In 2022 – 23, HECE supported SolarAid’s Mayi Walas (Shining Mothers) project. Their donation supported the training of 20 Mayi Walas , distributing 200 solar lights and reaching over 1,000 people. Who are Mayi Walas? The Mayi Walas are women who sell solar products to local communities. The women are trained and supported by programmes coordinated by SolarAid, before distributing the products to rural communities. The groups purchase lamps at bulk discount prices and sell them to customers for a profit. As women are the main users of light in homes, Mayi Walas understand their customers' needs. Group members often have strong social connections with their community and customers, so can support them throughout their ownership of the solar products. For more details about SolarAid, the Mayi Walas and how Heart of England Community Energy’s donation was used in the last year, please read the report below. .

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