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A new scheme which has the potential to revolutionise the way we generate and use energy has been awarded £90,000 from the Welsh Government to support the first UK trial.

First published:
15 September 2016
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

Energy Local (external link) has enrolled the community of Bethesda to trial a revolutionary local energy market model, which allows renewable energy from the local 100kW hydro scheme on the Afon Berthen to receive a higher price for its generation when the local community use it. This has the potential to dramatically reduce energy bills  for the community and reduce carbon emissions.

To date 100 households in Bethesda have been recruited to form an “Energy Local Club”. Each household will have a Smart Meter installed to show when electricity is being used as well as how much.  Electricity will be cheaper if households use power when the hydro plant is generating or at off peak times, such as overnight and in the middle of the day. 

Co-operative Energy, a partner in the project, will purchase the electricity from the hydro plant when it is generating more than the Energy Local Club members are using and supply the electricity to households when demand exceeds the local generation.

It is anticipated the project has the potential to save households up to 30% off their current energy bills. In turn the local energy generator will receive more for its energy than through current electricity export contracts. The community will continue to benefit from initiatives such as Warm Home Discounts where eligible.

The project, a first for the UK, is being showcased at today’s Community Energy Wales Conference, which is being attended by people from all over the UK working in the sector.

It is estimated the trial will save up to £10,000 a year within the local economy, calculated from the total savings to the local customers and the local generator.

If the pilot is successful it could be rolled out to areas across Wales, prioritising communities in areas of high fuel poverty.

The Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths said:

“I am pleased to support this exciting trial in Bethesda, which demonstrates our commitment to developing renewable energy projects and helping households struggling to pay high energy bills.

“This project is empowering the local community to take control of its energy consumption and has the potential to lead a major change in the way energy is produced and used in Wales. I look forward to following the schemes progress and wish all involved the best of luck with the trial.”

Dr Mary Gillie, founder of Energy Local, said:

“This really could turn the electricity system upside down, giving control back to the people who use and make our energy. For the first time the people of North Wales will see the full potential of their local renewable energy resources - it’ll keep money locally, encourage social cohesion, and help us all tackle climate change together. The whole country should use power like this, I hope one day we will be.”

The Energy Local trial is a collaborative project involving a number of partners, including:

  • Cyd Ogwen,
  • the National Trust, 
  • Development Trust Association Wales, 
  • Community Energy Wales (CEW), 
  • Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN),
  • Co-operative Energy. 
The trial has secured approval from Ofgem and Elexon.

Energy Local is a not for profit social enterprise promoting local ownership of renewable energy.