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Minutes of the Renewable Energy Generation Committee Meeting held in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall, Bideford, on Tuesday 8 December 2015 at 6.00 pm

PRESENT:

North Ward

Councillor P Christie

South Ward:

Councillor D Brenton
Councillor J Day (Chairman)
Councillor B Wootton

East Ward:

Councillor J McKenzie
Councillor S Robinson

Community Energy Group

James Craigie

IN ATTENDANCE:

Mr R D G Coombes (Deputy Town Clerk)
3 x Public

008.   APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

There were no apologies for absence.

009.   DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST ON ITEMS ON THE AGENDA

There were no declarations of interest.

010.   PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PERIOD

Mr Peter Smith introduced himself as a member of the Bideford Sustainability Group, volunteer supporter to 361 Energy CIC (along with Paul Rogers, committed to Community Energy) with thirty years working experience in the Electrical Supply industry (including Nuclear, although not a supporter).

Councillor McKenzie joined the Meeting.

The Chairman welcomed him to the meeting.

011.   MINUTES

The Minutes of the Meeting held on 10 September 2015 were approved and signed as a correct record.

(Vote – For: 5, Against: 0)

012.   CHARIMAN: UPDATE ON 361 Energy CIC

The Chairman reported that he had had a meeting with Mr Paul Rogers, Director 361 Energy CIC, to discuss progressing a Community Energy Project.

Councillor Wootton joined the Meeting.

Following the Council EGM held in September consideration was given to investigating the erecting of Solar pv panels on the Pannier Market, despite the indicated FiT cut, but including the building in a portfolio of business properties / organisations with a view to applying for a Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) Grant. (The Grant, of up to approximately £20,000, would pay for an initial investigation into the feasibility of a renewable energy project.) Instead of the Council purchasing the Panels they would be owned by the Cooperative set up by 361 Energy CIC / Community Partnership.  The Chairman highlighted the experience that 361 Energy CIC have gained in the sector and that a partnership with them would bring 361 Energy CIC into Bideford (and beyond).

The Chairman explained that he had created a portfolio of businesses and contacted many of them although he had received only one positive response, to date. He hoped that a letter from the Council could be addressed to explain the scheme where, following successful application:

• a professional survey,
• with no risk,
• free to the organisation,
• resulting in free panel installation and
• cheap(er) electricity

could be sent to establish potential to support a RCEF Grant.

Councillor Brenton questioned whether solar pv projects were restricted to roof siting. He wondered whether an Allotment Site, possibly Pollyfield, with south facing land could be considered. He also thought that self-governing schools could be approached.

Mr Craigie indicated that planning permission would be required for ground based installations greater than 3.5 kW.

Councillor Christie indicated that the National Grid could not take the energy from the Holsworthy Development Centre set up.

Mr Craigie Confirmed that a system less than 10 kW would fit to the National Grid, however, a larger system would be reliant upon the Grid’s largesse. He ventured that multiple meters still required permission.

Councillor Christie asked how 361 Energy CIC benefited.

The Chairman explained that 361 Energy CIC is a voluntary group operating in Barnstaple, Braunton and Ilfracombe advising on fuel poverty. They provide intensive one to one advice on installations: double glazing, cavity wall / solid wall / heat insulation, LED lighting etc. and have helped forty low income households in North Devon

save hundreds of pounds per year in energy bills. He reaffirmed that they were a community interest company with good expertise on obtaining grant funding and routes various to secure money.

SUSPENSION OF STANDING ORDERS

Proposed by Councillor Brenton, seconded and

RESOLVED: That Standing Orders are suspended in order to allow Mr Smith to address the Meeting.

(Vote – For: 5, Against: 0)

Mr Smith confirmed the high level of expertise that 361 Energy CIC had in successfully applying for funding.

The Chairman concluded that that a Social Enterprise Partnership involving 361 Energy CIC and the Council, similar to the Exeter and Plymouth models, would see a benefit to the Bideford area with no cost to the Council.

013.   WORKING GROUP: PANNIER MARKET SOLAR PV FEASIBILITY / ALTERNATE RENEWABLE INITIATIVES

The Chairman felt that there was agreement to including the Pannier Market as part of a portfolio.

Councillor Brenton questioned the suitability of the Grade II Listed building noting that the rooves were not south facing.

Councillor Robinson believed that in the light of recent experience an application should be processed with the installation work carried out at the most appropriate time.

Councillor Christie advised that the Conservation Officer was supportive. Adding that the Tenants would benefit from cheaper energy.

Mr Craigie agreed that an application for the largest array should be staffed indicating that a smaller scheme could be utilised.

The Deputy Town Clerk indicated that the application would have to be supported with a design and indication of where the cabling would be routed. Discussion followed on the need for appropriate drawings and the limitations of those currently held.

The Deputy Town Clerk reminded Members that there was still confusion over the Council’s legal status, while correspondence from the Department of Energy and Climate Change and a Local Council Solicitor indicated that the Council could generate and sell electricity, the NALC Solicitor had stated,

“If the purpose of having panels is to generate electricity to sell on, this would in my view be akin to trading and, as such, would not be permitted.”

He added that a VAT specialist had advised that,

“there are some hideous potential VAT issues with solar panels especially if you supply tenants with free electricity generated thereby…”

The Chairman championed the Social Enterprise project that would see them owning the panels and provide the electricity to the Council, thereby avoiding the legal and VAT complications.

Mr Craigie confirmed that the Social Enterprise group would own the Panels, 361 Energy CIC would enjoy the Export Tariff with the Council benefitting from free or at least less expensive electricity.

The Chairman stated that the Council would not be paying £50,000 for the Panels.

Councillor Christie indicated that there would be serious costs involved when addressing the plans. The Chairman stated that the associated costs for the installation would also be covered by the Social Enterprise Group.

Mr Craigie spoke of the Community interest Companies and Cooperative Models where the Council would join / invest set up money to receive a return as opposed simply being part of a group.

The Deputy Town Clerk stated that permission would have to be obtained from the Landlord for a third party involvement. Mr Andrew Waite, Torridge District Council, had previously stated that in order for the Project to go ahead the Landlord would have to give approval with assurances that the equipment would be properly fitted. (A notice would need to be issued to TDC.)

Mr Craigie indicated that a break clause could be inserted should TDC / Landlord wish to cancel the Lease / take back the Market.

The Chairman advised that the Exeter Enterprise enjoyed support from DCC and that it would be useful to have other bodies involved.

Mr Craigie reiterated that with the Cooperative Model every organisation becomes an equal community interest with similar voting power; there would be a cost to buy in.

The Chairman indicated that the application / portfolio should not be limited to Bideford; a greater catchment area would prove beneficial. The Application would need to see a 300 kwh minimum capacity, with the Market potential of 37 kwh nine or ten firms would need to be on board.

It was proposed by Councillor D Brenton, seconded and

RECOMMENDED: That the Committee would assume the role of the Working Group where Meetings would consist of the one agenda item: to investigate the feasibility / viability of installing a Solar pv array on the Pannier Market roof, consider alternate suitable (renewable) initiatives and make recommendation (to Council).

(Vote – For: 6, Against: 0)

014.   SOCIAL ENTERPRISE / COMMUNITY ENERGY PROJECT

The Chairman spoke on working with Mr Rogers and Energy 361 Energy CIC on submitting an application indicating that there were a number of stages to the process which would similarly take months to complete with a two hours a day commitment.

He reiterated detail on the benefits of the RCEF Grant that included a package of survey, planning, legal costs for the portfolio. He covered the capital, community share (issue), planning application and a DEFRA professional inspection.

The Deputy Town Clerk asked whether there was any further news on the FiT payment.

The Chairman said that there had been nothing confirmed given that the White Paper would be discussed in Parliament at the beginning of the year. Having read the document he believed that the 10 < 50 kW business set up was least likely to be affected and believed that it still presented a viable proposition.   He spoke of the FiT payments being phased in with the 10 < 50 kW bands still remaining promising.

Mr Craigie asked if 361 Energy CIC would be applying in the name of the Bideford Town Council which would see 361 Energy CIC holding the finance but the Council holding the document.

The Chairman indicated that the Council would be part of the Enterprise, a critical influence, providing an authoritative voice when encouraging other businesses to engage in the portfolio.

He added that having sounded out a number of businesses on his personal E Mail an approach from the Council would be most effective.

Councillor Robinson suggested that the Chamber of Commerce be approached.

Councillor Brenton wondered whether there were examples of other Parishes or Towns who had engaged in a similar Community initiative.

Mr Craigie confirmed the Plymouth Community initiative but also highlighted the Wadebridge (Renewable Energy Network) as an example.

Discussion followed on registration of the Community group where the Chairman stated that a new enterprise would not need to be registered, given 361 Energy CIC’s involvement.

Councillor Brenton believed that there would need to be clear detail and understanding of the set up group, the role of Bideford Town Council within it, the propositions and the partnerships.

Members discussed the merits of contact with and possible visit to Plymouth / Wadebridge. Mr Smith indicated that Mr Rogers had engaged with them in the past.

015.   COMMUNITY ENERGY PROJECT SITE CONSIDERATION / RCEF APPLICATION

The Chairman reiterated the benefits of partnership, pursuing the portfolio highlighting the no cost to business, no commitment to accept panels and no cost for the professional survey.

Having had only the one response to date from organisations to the Chairman’s effort it was felt that it would be more appropriate for the Council to invite participation. Councillor Brenton suggested that a letter be drafted, shown to the Committee and provided to the Council for the Meeting to be held on 17 December 2015.

It was proposed by Councillor Brenton, seconded and

RECOMMENDED: That a Letter from the Council is written explaining to local organisations the Community Project, the Rural Community Energy Fund Grant and inviting them to be included within the portfolio to support the (Grant) application.

(Vote – For: 6, Against: 0)

016.   DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL FREE SOLAR PANELS OFFER

Members expressed surprise that DCC did not have opportunities to redeploy their old panels elsewhere within their portfolio.

The Chairman indicated that the Panels would be unsuitable for buildings suggesting that they were now outdated, ugly and a slight chance of a fire hazard with that model of panel.

While they might be better suited for ground siting, the infrastructure required would be costly, there would be difficulty in finding a contractor prepared to work with them.

The Deputy Town Clerk advised that the Secretary of State would have to be approached requesting a change of usage should an allotment site be considered. He indicated that the current sites are full with modest waiting lists.

Without the possibility of a FiT payment, nor warranty Members saw no benefit in the offer and would make no recommendation (to Council).

RETURN TO STANDING ORDERS

Proposed by Councillor Brenton, seconded and

RESOLVED: That the Meeting return to Standing Orders.

(Vote – For: 6, Against: 0)

The Chairman, having established that there was no further business to discuss, thanked the Members for their attendance and concluded the Meeting at 7.15 pm.


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