Exeter Community Energy (ECOE)

ECOE has deployed ten solar installations across Exeter and Devon, and has developed a Community Fund from the revenue generated to give back to the city and local communities.

89 t
Est. annual reduction in carbon
emissions (tonnes CO2 eq)

Est. number of people
who benefit directly

Our story

Exeter Community Energy was established by eight local people in 2014 brought together by Transition Exeter‘s energy group. As of 2021, we have two major activities. First, we generate renewable electricity on the rooftops of community buildings. We sell that electricity to the buildings at a reduced price compared to their main electricity supplier. We also make income from renewable energy subsidies and selling electricity to the grid.

Our second activity is Healthy Homes for Wellbeing, a project that supports people in fuel poverty. We work with various partners, primarily gaining funding through the Energy Company Obligation, a government scheme to help reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty. We also work with Western Power Distribution, as reducing energy consumption reduces strain on its infrastructure.

In terms of our current strategy, our purposes are:
• Fight fuel poverty
• Fight climate change
• Strengthen Exeter’s community
• Improve social value and quality of life for people in our area

We do this by:
• Actively engaging with members and community
• Obtain funding via grants, share offerings and loans
• Developing renewable generation sites and services such as Healthy Homes for Wellbeing and green retrofit activities
• Use income from projects and services to repay loans, and shares and support our community fund
• Use surplus from projects and services to develop new projects/services

To date, ECOE has deployed ten solar installations across Exeter and Devon, and is still looking to facilitate more. ECOE has also developed a Community Fund from the revenue generated from their Solar PV projects in order to give back to Exeter and the communities of Exeter through additional grant funding.

Through its ten solar power installations ECOE has generated over 1.4GWh to date and saved over 447 tonnes of carbon from being emitted. Over the projects’ 20 years lifespan, they expect to make over £170,000 available to the Community Fund, which is available for local community groups to apply for funding for projects that help to save energy and/or help to alleviate fuel poverty.

The Community Fund has supported many projects, most often helping install more efficient lighting in community buildings. In 2017-18 the Music in Devon Initiative launched their solar-powered PA via funding from ECOE’s Community Fund, which as well as displacing fossil-fuel-powered energy allows them to perform in off-grid locations. In 2018-2019, ECOE helped fund the first publicly available electric vehicle charger in Topsham. The 2019-2020 fund helped support projects from 11 applicants during the pandemic, including educational and community transport schemes. For 2020-2021, ECOE funded four applicants.

The Healthy Homes for Wellbeing project helps fuel poor residents across Exeter, Mid Devon, East Devon, Teignbridge and Torbay. The team of six home energy advisors support 150 households per month.

Our advice

Start by talking to as many people in your area as possible, especially local councils. We were able to access a lot of our startup funding that way.

Look nationwide for similar organisations to learn from. ECOE benefited greatly from community energy groups across the country.

Perhaps the biggest challenge has been continuity. It hasn't been easy to transition from startup mode to day-to-day running, so perhaps we should have thought more about that.

Our metrics

Emissions avoided.
Number of people helped with energy bills and consumption.
Total value of money saved on energy bills.
Volunteer hours.
Amount of money paid into community fund.
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One of ECOE's newest projects, at Westbank Community Health and Care.
ECOE's directors at our well-ventilated 2021 strategy day.
School pupils testing solar cells, supported by ECOE's community fund.