Plymouth Energy Community wins prestigious Observer Ethical Award


Jenny Coles and Jemma Knowles from PEC receive their award from Stuart Bailey from National Grid and Lucy Siegle, Observer Ethical columnist.

Jenny Coles and Jemma Knowles from PEC receive their award from Stuart Bailey from National Grid and Lucy Siegle, Observer Ethical columnist. Photographs: Alicia Canter/Observer

Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) has won a prestigious national Observer Ethical Award.

PEC won the Community Energy Project category at the glittering awards ceremony in London on Thursday, 2 July. Runners up in the category were Low Carbon Hub and Repowering London.

PEC, which Plymouth City Council helped establish in June 2013 with a start-up grant and loan and continues to support, is a Community Benefit Society owned and run by its’ members that aims help residents transform how they buy, use and generate power in the city. PEC aims to provide more affordable warmth to people living in Plymouth, in line with recommendations from the Fairness Commission. The city has 11,500 households (10%) in fuel poverty and much of the housing stock is poorly insulated and energy efficient.

Alistair Macpherson, Chief Executive of PEC, said: “We are really proud to get this Observer award as it celebrates our focus on local environmental and social justice. It also further endorses the support Plymouth City Council has given us. The Council should be applauded for enabling the creation of PEC and providing loan finance for community owned solar power.  Many other areas are now following Plymouth’s lead.”

Jenny Coles and Jemma Knowles from PEC at the Observer Ethical Awards.

Jenny Coles and Jemma Knowles from PEC at the Observer Ethical Awards. Photographs: Alicia Canter/Observer

Leader of Plymouth City Council, Councillor Tudor Evans said: “PEC is one the city’s great success stories and we are delighted that the team’s hard work has received this recognition.

“PEC has grown from a Plymouth City Council initiative into a large community-led operation which offers a range of excellent services to help the people of Plymouth.”

Achievements since PEC was launched include:

  • Fuel Debt Advice Service helping residents in arrears apply for funding to clear their debt. This has cleared over £55,000 fuel bill debt in ten months, from over 300 referrals (£120,000 currently under application).
  • Promotion of grant schemes for free cavity and loft insulation and subsidised external wall insulation. Over 23,000 households have been targeted, with nearly 1000 surveys completed. The measures installed will save residents over £750,000 over the lifetime of the measures, reducing heating bills by up to one third (average £260 per year per household).
  • Provision of energy tariff advice and switching service to over 600 households, offering average savings of £180 per year per household.
  • Training energy champions, who have attended over 80 community events, supported over 280 residents and subsequently trained 100 resident support staff, who in turn reach hundreds of vulnerable energy consumers.
  • Launch of a volunteer programme: training 30 community volunteers to provide free home energy advice visits to more than 200 households in Plymouth at risk of fuel poverty. Volunteers will enable these residents to save around £16,000 in 1 year on energy costs. Their wider community work will provide direct energy saving knowledge to over 800 residents.
  • Installed solar panels on 21 different schools and public buildings via its sister organisation PEC Renewables. The solar panels are funded by the sale of community shares as well as a loan from the Council. A second wave of solar roof installations will include the Plymouth Life Centre.
  • Previous awards won by PEC and its sister organisation PEC Renewables, which provides locally-owned renewable energy installations include the 2014 UK Social Enterprise ‘Investment Deal of the Year’, 2014 Regen SW Green Energy Award for ‘Best Community Initiative’, and the 2014 Abercrombie Award for ‘Best Green Project’.

Photographs: Alicia Canter/Observer