Clearing the air

COVID-19 shutdowns are helping tackle climate change, so let’s ‘follow the science’ and use renewable energy co-ops to keep our air clean, says Dan McCallum.

See this page in: Cymraeg

I work for Awel Aman Tawe (AAT), a community energy charity which has been operating for 21 years. Our prime drivers are tackling climate change, job creation, retaining wealth in the Welsh economy and engaging people in energy. We have set up two co-ops:

  • Awel Co-op is a 4.7MW community wind farm which was commissioned in Jan 2017.
  • Egni Co-op develops rooftop solar on community, business and public sector buildings. It had installed over 2.6 MW on 85 sites in Wales by March 2020. It will be installing a further 1MW by end September including on the Geraint Thomas Velodrome in Newport which @500kW, will be the largest array in Wales – we’re very excited!.

We have over 1,000 direct members and over 50,000 people are engaged via local community organisations or schools/businesses where our panels are located.

One of positive things that I’ve heard coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, is government saying they are following the science. Well, they need to apply the same principle to climate change! The threats are every bit as real, but on a far larger scale than that created by the current pandemic.

Another positive thing people have said is that the air is so much cleaner now. Fewer cars, fewer planes and coal-fired powered stations have been on-stop. What hasn’t stopped generating is our wind and solar energy. And if we want to keep our air clean, we simply need to generate as much renewable energy as possible.

The perfect solution is community energy co-ops. Wales has some great examples such as Ynni Ogwen in Bethesda, which has developed a hydro scheme and a host of other innovative initiatives. Another example is Renewable Power Pembrokeshire, who’ve just installed their 900kW wind turbine and are going to launch a Share Offer.

These projects have a big impact on climate change and the local economy. Egni Co-op saves £88k/year on electricity costs for our sites and reduces Wales’ carbon emissions by 486 tonnes.

Through Egni, we offer sites a 20% reduction on the cost per kWh that schools and businesses pay their existing electricity supplier. Several of our smaller community sites benefit from free electricity from the solar generation. In addition, we have:

  • Developed resources (teaching packs and monitoring equipment) to enable schools to integrate data from the solar panels in different lessons which we offer free of charge to all member schools.
  • Donated £500 of free shares in Egni Co-op to all member schools. This gives them a cash return on the solar panels on their roofs. Our aim is to increase understanding of how co-ops, entrepreneurship, and solar energy works.
  • As a co-op and a not for profit structure, we can be completely open book regarding our costs, income, and generation data. This can increase learning opportunities from Egni which can be particularly useful in encouraging entrepreneurship amongst young people, a key area of the new curriculum.

Wales has taken a lead in the UK in the past few years in developing community energy co-ops and needs to build on that success. It’s one of the best ways I can imagine to #BuildBackBetter.

This blog is published as part of a series for Co-operatives Fortnight 2020. Let’s build something better together. #KeepCooperating

Dan McCallum from Awel Aman Tawe


“Wales has taken a lead in the UK in the past few years in developing community energy co-ops and needs to build on that success.”

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