As winter sets in and energy prices are rising, communities across the UK find that heating a community building – such as a village hall, sports centre or theatre – is a massive cost to bear. But what are the solutions?
On the 21st of November, Egin held a Learning and Sharing session called Energy Efficiency: Understanding and Reducing Energy Usage in your Community Building.
The webinar featured presentations from Mike Brain, Net Zero Program Manager on Social Business Wales, and Dave Gittins, Director for Wales at Severn Wye Energy Agency. You can watch the recording by clicking here. However, you may find it easier to read some of our main takeaways here.
Some of the main takeaways:
- Monitoring and Targeting: The foundation of effective energy management lies in monitoring and measuring everything. Understanding usage patterns let you quickly notice trends and differences, for example if you introduce something new (like a smart timer for lights), and to act fast when energy usage suddenly spikes.
- Setting Reduction Targets: A 10-15% reduction in energy consumption is a reasonable first-year goal. Achieving this is possible through low-cost measures like behaviour change, time control, and insulation.
- Understanding Energy Bills: Mike stressed the importance of knowing your contract status to avoid increased rates – many people find their contracts have expired and they’re paying more than they need to. Actual meter readings are crucial for accurate data – are you paying for estimated use, or actual use? Check for additional charges, such as “Available Capacity Supply”, which charges you an extra amount for reserving a certain amount of energy for you to use if and when you want it.
- Don’t start with solar panels: Dave introduced the energy hierarchy, showing that starting with solar panels does not make sense – first, we need to minimise energy demand. After this, we can explore low-carbon energy options, and finally offsetting the remaining carbon emissions to reach Net Zero.
- Insulation + LEDs: Dave highlighted the importance of investing in the building’s fabric before renewable energy solutions. Prioritise insulation, upgrade lighting to LEDs for a quick saving, and ensure than appliances are efficient before making the leap to generating your own energy.
- Case Studies: Real-world examples illustrated the impact of Energy Efficiency measures. Horsley Village Hall and Awre Village Hall demonstrated significant savings and CO2 reductions after investing in insulation, heating upgrades, and LED lighting.
- When to Take Action: Dave stressed the importance of measuring energy use before and after changes, conducting energy audits for detailed insights, and understanding short-term, medium-term, and long-term measures. Both speakers also emphasised the importance of bringing in a professional and not trying to do an energy audit yourself!
We also heard a little from Louisa Addiscott (Egin), who shared a story from a community she had been working with to make a new building as energy efficient as possible. Despite having some of the most up-to-date technology, they found it difficult to communicate to people why they should be using it in a certain way. The group agreed that training your community and staff, and making sure everyone understands the importance of saving energy, was vital – otherwise, even the most state-of-the-art technology will do nothing to save on your bills!
Support Services Available:
- Energy audits: Groups supported through Egin can receive a free energy audit from our partners, Severn Wye Energy Agency. These are detailed reports that give you insight into how energy efficient your community building is, as well as listing some no-cost, low cost and larger cost things that you can do to improve it.
One group who recently received an energy audit through the Egin programme was Tywyn Baptist Church, who got in touch with Egin earlier in the year because of their vision of making the building carbon neutral by 2030. Here’s what they had to say about their own energy audit:
“The Energy Audit confirmed some things that we were already considering but threw other ideas into the mix as well. Although some people found it tough reading, having Peter Draper’s voice of experience & qualification behind it has certainly added weight to our cause. The report gives us a lot of good starting points – the plan now is to find local specialists to then take us on a ‘deeper dive’ into each aspect in turn! One of the aspects we are looking into is the installation of a solar panel array, to help produce renewable energy for the building.”
- Net Zero support for social enterprises – if you are a social enterprise, have a look at how Social Business Wales’s Net Zero support service can help you to reach your sustainability goals. Between now and mid-2024, up to 6 social enterprises can receive in-depth support.
- Energy Action Group – DTA Wales delivers the Energy Action Group (EAG) service to our members and others in the sector. Working alongside our energy management consultants, Touchstone Services, competitive quotes are found which can save your community owned asset or enterprise significant, hard earned funds.
This link of links from Sustainable Wales might also be helpful – it contains information about energy saving in the home, energy saving for businesses as well as community energy.