The exact project details are not finalised yet. Ongoing consultation with the local community is feeding into the offer being developed, as well as what is financially feasible and realistic. The details will be finalised before anyone commits to joining the scheme.
Showing an interest in the scheme does not commit you to joining. It will give you the chance to suggest changes to what we are proposing, which could help improve the scheme. You are not committed to joining the scheme until you have signed an agreement with TWOs.
Please see below some answers to possible concerns; however, please bear in mind some of the information may be subject to change as the project evolves.
TWO Streets of Solar is a project originally devised by local residents with a background in the community and renewable energy sectors. It is being developed by a partnership between Easton Energy Group, a social enterprise focusing on topics of climate change, sustainable and affordable energy, and Clean Energy Prospector (CEPRO), an Easton-based clean technology company specialising in the operation and management of distributed renewable generators. Our vision is for communities to generate and manage their own energy locally instead of buying non-renewable, polluting energy from mainstream energy suppliers.
The scheme will be managed by Owen Square Community Energy, which is a not-for-profit Community Energy Services Company (CESCo) with savings on energy costs returned to users connecting to the scheme.
The Community Energy Services Company will help residents save money by supplying electricity at a cheaper price than other suppliers, and save carbon dioxide emissions by installing renewable energy generation (solar installations) and committing to supply 100% renewable electricity.
What is a Community Energy Services Company and how does it work?
The Community Energy Services Company, ‘Owen Square Community Energy’, which residents will be members of, will be the electricity supplier to residents joining the scheme, rather than their existing supplier. It is the same CESCo managing the Owen Square energy centre, which uses electricity generated on the roof of the community centre to generate heat in the summer and store it in the ground for the winter. Using an existing, local CESCo is favoured because it can reduce the administrative work (and costs), concerns which were raised in the initial consultation with residents, and would mean the project could be extended in the future to incorporate additional homes nearby. Members of the CESCo can become directors, so can have control over how the organisation is operated (e.g. award the microgrid maintenance contract or billing and administration contracts). CEPRO are responsible for the initial development and will manage the construction of the microgrid.
The CESCo will supply electricity through the use of a microgrid, which is essentially a mini electricity supply network. The CESCo uses the microgrid to supply energy to homes from two sources:
- The homes joining the scheme will have solar panels installed on their roofs – generating electricity from the sun – and any surplus energy provided by these panels, which is not being used by each individual home, will be stored in a communal battery system and redistributed to residents when they need it.
- Any additional energy needs will be met from the National Grid, through Good Energy, a supplier committed to 100% renewable electricity.
What are the financial benefits of being on the microgrid, and how much are residents likely to save?
Current electricity prices are based on many factors, including fuel prices. Obviously, solar panels require no fuel, and their maintenance costs are negligible. This, in addition to the storage allowing use of the electricity generated at different times, would mean less electricity would be purchased through National Grid suppliers, and would lead to cost savings. Electricity price trends in recent years (since 2008) are of continued increase in real terms, although at lower rates than in previous years . We are therefore expecting the savings to be more modest in the early stage of the scheme, but can increase in future with a further real-term rise in domestic electricity prices.
Following initial discussion with residents, we are looking at offering a fixed price (below current market rate) for two years, and a review of the price at the end of the term. The financial performance of the CESCo can determine how advantageous the prices offered to members would be, and members (as owners of the CESCo) can have input into this decision.
What are the environmental benefits of being on the microgrid?
Residents will be supplied with 100% renewable energy, through a combination of energy generated on site, and any required top-up provided by the National Grid and supplied by Good Energy. This system will reduce residents’ carbon footprints, and help the National Grid in becoming less polluting, by adding renewable energy generation capacity, and more resilient, through a reduction of peak demand loading.
Do I have to join the Community Services Energy Company?
Yes, in order to benefit from (and contribute to) the scheme, you must switch to the CESCo as your supplier; you do not have to become a member, but doing so will give you the option of being involved in decision-making and managing the CESCo. If you wish to leave the scheme and change supplier in the future, we will provide an option to do so.
Can I join the scheme if I don’t own my home?
In order to have solar panels installed and join the microgrid, the owner of the property will have to consent to the installation. If you are a private tenant and you think your landlord may be interested, we will be happy to discuss it with them, but you would, of course, have to be interested in joining the microgrid. There will be no costs to your landlord. If you are a council or housing society tenant, please contact us – we are very keen to have as many houses on the scheme as possible, and will be happy to support you to discuss it with the council or housing society. We think they are likely to be supportive, as the project is in line with several policies aiming to tackle climate change and fuel poverty, and has been awarded national and local authority funding.
Do I have to have solar panels installed, or can I just join the microgrid? Can I join the scheme if my roof isn’t suitable for solar installation?
Yes, we are aware that some roofs may not be suitable for solar panels to be installed, and some residents may not want to have them installed. You can switch to the CESCo as your electricity supplier, and join the microgrid. You would still benefit from lower electricity costs, and by having more houses connected to the microgrid, we are hoping to be able to better match solar electricity consumption and generation, because different houses may be occupied at slightly different times or use electricity in a different way.
Is my roof suitable for solar installation?
In terms of orientation, all roofs on Colston Road and Chelsea Park are suitable, as can be seen in the Solar Map, produced by Bristol City Council, with red denoting ‘very good’ and orange denoting ‘good’ potential:
Your roof will also need to be in reasonable condition and not require any major work in the next 20-25 years. Most roofs are strong enough to carry the additional weight of the system, but this will be assessed prior to installation. If your roof needs any repairs after the panels are installed, then they will be removed and stored for a charge covering labour, storage and scaffolding (of course, if you already have scaffolding in place, this wouldn’t be charged). We’re currently looking into options to combine required work to the fabric of the roof at the installation stage, to reduce this risk.
Your roof also needs to be reasonably simple, with enough space to accommodate at least 8 panels. Roofs with gabled or dormer windows might not provide enough uninterrupted rectangular space for the panels.
How long will it take to install the solar panels and have scaffolding on my house?
Solar panels can normally be installed within 1 day. However, as part of this project we are proposing to combine the installations on several houses to reduce costs, so to complete the installation we would allow for 2-3 days for this part of the work.
How will the solar panels on different houses be linked together? What equipment will be installed?
The cable from the solar panels on the roof will run down the back of each house to connect to the microgrid in an exterior box. An electricity meter would also be installed in this exterior box. A second cable would then need to run from this box to connect beside your existing electricity meter (most likely through the loft or through the house in cable housing) to connect your house to the microgrid.
How much will the project cost? Where is the funding for this project coming from?
You will not pay for the solar panels, solar installation costs or microgrid installation. The only payment you will make is the cost per unit of electricity – see ‘what are the financial benefits of being on the microgrid?’
Initial funding for assessing the feasibility of this project and initial public engagement came from DECC (Department for Energy and Climate Change, now called BEIS: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), through the Urban Community Energy Fund. Additional funding for further public engagement and input from local stakeholders, and for project development, came from the Bristol Community Energy Fund. Funding for construction and installing and setting up the microgrid is being sought partly from innovation funding bodies and other grant providers and partly from energy investment funds (including some that will provide ethical investment opportunities to the local community, further supporting the local economy). The project is being supported by Regen South West, who are helping with developing the project and the business plan, and we’re hoping it can be replicated in other communities across the UK in the future.
Where would any profits from this project go to?
Current regulations prevent profit making from the resale of electricity by electricity suppliers who haven’t purchased a commercial supply license. As such any surpluses would be retained within the ESCo and used to reduce the cost of providing energy to ESCo members.
How will I pay for the electricity? Will I lose my dual fuel tariff?
When you switch to the CESCo, you will be billed for your electricity usage per unit, just in the same way as you are billed by your current supplier. We are still looking at different ways to pay; if you have any preferences, e.g. how frequently or method of payment, then please let us know. Another option being explored is a Time of Use tariff – whereby electricity will be cheaper during the night and outside ‘peak demand’ hours (which are usually between 4pm and 8pm).
It might be possible to retain your dual fuel tariff if you wish to switch to Good Energy to supply your gas – we can try to negotiate a better deal for the residents as a group. Good Energy are working to increase the percentage of gas coming from renewable sources such as biomethane, so this will help to reduce your carbon footprint further.
How will it affect the value of my property? What about my mortgage?
Installing solar panels and making energy efficiency improvements to your house will improve the energy rating of the building – as reflected in the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which is required whenever a house is sold or rented. A report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (now Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) found that ‘energy efficiency is a key factor influencing the sale price of most residential dwellings in England […] and could increase its value by an average 14%’.
Most mortgage providers are now familiar with roof leases for free commercial solar installations, so re-mortgaging or selling your home is unlikely to be a problem. The roof lease will be more favourable than some other roof leases used by commercial free solar schemes. This is because the aim of TWOS is to provide cheaper, greener electricity rather than simply maximise financial return to investors.
If you sell your home, the buyer can take your place in the scheme and benefit from the cheaper, greener electricity just like you have. In the unlikely event that the solar installation is preventing you from finding a buyer, a buyout option can be used.
Some buyers may be concerned that TWOs could be a sitting tenant: in other words, they will have the right to renew the lease when it expires. This is not the case for the TWOs project. Each home-owner will get a signed lease renewal waiver before they sign the roof lease.
Will I have to inform my mortgage provider?
We will seek and receive consent from your lender before any work proceeds.
Will I have to inform my property insurer?
Yes, we will provide information on how to notify your insurer. There should be no increase in premiums as a result of hosting the equipment, as the equipment and any damage caused by it will be covered by the CESCo’s insurance.
How easy will it be change from the CESCo to a different electricity supplier? Will it be possible to join the CESCo at a later stage?
Your electricity supply contract and your solar panel roof contract will be separate with separate termination terms. You will be able to terminate your microgrid electricity supply contract at any time by giving 30 days notice in writing. A termination fee will apply where termination occurs within the contract term (e.g. the first year). If you choose to switch away from the microgrid to supply your electricity but keep the solar panels in place, your solar panels will continue to generate electricity for the CESCo, and your old meter and National Grid connection will be reinstated for electricity supply.
We are planning the project so that it can be expanded in the future, so it would be possible to join the microgrid at a later stage, but we may have to perform some of the work in batches, connecting a few houses at a time, in order to keep the costs down.
Can I get out of the scheme (leave the CESCo as my supplier), and keep the solar as stand alone for my own use? Can I have the panels removed? How easy will it be to remove the panels? What would be the cost, and who pays for it?
It is possible to terminate the roof lease early (if there were not an option to exit, mortgage providers would not lend money on the home). If you are familiar with commercial free solar schemes you will know that terminating these early can be very expensive. This is not the case with this project because it is about cheaper, greener electricity and not about making as much money as possible. However, due to the nature of the project, you will lose some of the benefits if you opt out of different parts of the scheme. If you wish to leave the microgrid and switch to a different supplier, you would still have the physical microgrid network in place – but will be buying your electricity from a different supplier. If you wish to terminate the solar panels roof lease, there are several options.
We are looking into the possibility of offering two termination options. The first is guaranteed and that is to buy out the solar panels yourself. The cost will depend on how long your home has been in the scheme. It will be calculated using the full system price, a discount dependent on how long the home has been in the scheme and a reasonable administration fee. In other words, the longer your home is in the scheme the cheaper it would be to buy out the solar. There will also be an electrical rewiring cost to switch the solar panels from ‘microgrid’ to ‘grid’ connected. You may not be eligible for any Feed-in Tariff payments on the panels if you buy them out, but you will have free electricity whenever the PV system is generating.
We are also looking at a second, cheaper, option to terminate the roof lease but we cannot guarantee this will be an option yet, since we need to make sure that it does not jeopardise the financial health of the project. The idea is that panels are removed and put on another roof. There would be a charge to cover the cost of removal and reinstallation but this is likely to be a lot cheaper than paying the full buyout price.
[Landlords] If future new tenant objects to the installed equipment, will you remove it?
We can remove the solar panels (see question ‘can I get out of the scheme?’), in the unlikely case that a tenant objects to having solar panels on the roof. If a tenant wishes to leave the microgrid (i.e. change electricity supplier), they can do so without leaving the scheme altogether – the panels can continue generating electricity for the CESCo, we would allow the tenant’s new supplier to reinstate their public grid connection, and so only minor physical changes would be necessary (but their contract term and electricity prices will be determined by a new supplier). A new tenant can then in the future switch back to the microgrid and CESCo as a supplier, and benefit from the lower electricity price.
Who pays for any damage caused during installation or by the installed equipment? Who will pay for any damage caused to the equipment?
Any damage during installation and within the installation warranty period will be repaired by the installer at no charge.
The equipment (eg. the solar panels) will be insured. The owner of the equipment (the CESCo) will pay the insurance excess and any damage caused by/to the equipment that arises outside the warranty period. We are currently looking into various insurance options.
What ‘emergency access’ rights will you require?
You roof lease contract will include a provision for access to equipment at all reasonable times (business hours) and at any time in the event of an emergency.