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Grant supports renewable energy project in County Durham

When Tow Law Community Association in County Durham realised that old mine works in the town had the potential to supply the community with renewable energy, a grant from the Rural Community Energy Fund helped them to fund a feasibility study.

Jenny Flynn from the Tow Law Community Association explains more.

Tow Law Community Association was established as a charity in 1983. We raised the funds to build a community centre, where we’re now based, and which is also a home to the town council, a weekly food bank and a huge array of community services including housing association advice sessions, sports clubs, music and art classes, and toddler groups.

Of course, it’s important that we keep our costs down in order to remain viable, and part of that is looking at energy efficiency in our own building. To do this, in 2010 we commissioned an environmental report for the community centre. As well as resulting in the installation of 48 solar panels which reduce our bills and bring in income, the report led to the suggestion that it might be possible to harness heat within mine water which is under the ground in areas of Tow Law.

There are lots of old mines in this area, most of which closed down in the 1960s. It seemed silly not to find out if we could make use of the mine water to generate heat for people’s homes – the naturally-heated water would be used to generate heat, giving the potential to save both money and resources in the long run.

A grant from the Rural Community Energy Fund has enabled us to have a survey carried out to find out whether the mine water idea is viable and also whether the site might be a suitable spot for solar panels. If it does turn out to be a viable project, then we will move on to the next stage of putting it into action.

There are wind farms in our local area so people here are already very aware of the potential of renewables. And of course, people are a lot more concerned about climate change now, which we all have to work together to tackle.

I understand there are similar projects taking place in Denmark, where local communities benefit from wind-generated power, and I think it is the way forward for small communities.

Grants like this are there to be used and the experts are out there who can support you so I’d encourage other North East communities to look at what local resources they might have available and give it a go as well.

Find out more about the Rural Community Energy Fund here, or get in touch with Josh Sawyer, Rural Energy Officer at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership on [email protected] or 07584 154510.

Home / Rural energy

Decarbonising energy in rural homes and businesses

As the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Rural Energy Officer, my role involves helping to develop and support delivery of renewable energy projects in a range of rural locations, from agricultural and business settings to domestic and community venues.

Whether we’re looking at energy generation, storage or efficiency, the theme which cuts across all my work is rural locations – the coastal landscapes, market towns and villages which we have so many of here in the North East. And one of my key goals is helping to make sure that rural communities in the North East benefit from the opportunities that arise as the UK’s power, heating and transport sectors decarbonise.

To support these rural communities, the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) can help people to develop community-led renewable energy projects, providing grants of up to £40,000 for feasibility studies and £140,000 for full commercialisation. In my role I’m responsible for helping rural communities across the North East LEP and Tees Valley Combined Authority areas access RCEF funding for their projects.

Any rural community organisation can apply – for example, a parish council, a sports club or a housing association –the successful applicants receive grant funding to help move their idea towards becoming a reality,  with the grant being used to pay for a professional consultancy to determine whether your project idea is feasible and how you can take your project forward.

Projects using technologies such as hydropower, solar energy, wind energy or heat pumps could all be eligible for support through the RCEF. So, if your rural community has a project in mind which could lead to the renewable generation of heat or power, or even just an idea which you’d like to discuss, I’d encourage you to get in touch.

The UK has committed to reaching a target of net zero emissions by 2050 and the coming months and years will see more and more communities, both urban and rural, investing in renewable energy for homes and businesses.

As well as the obvious environmental benefits, the green economy also has the potential to bring new technologies, more jobs and investment to our communities and it’s vital that rural areas reap the benefits.

Josh Sawyer, Rural Energy Officer.

If you’d like to find out more about the Rural Community Energy Fund, get in touch with Josh Sawyer, Rural Energy Officer at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) on [email protected] or 07584 154510. 

This project is funded through the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF). RCEF is being delivered by the North East Yorkshire and Humber (NEYH) Local Energy Hub on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Tees Valley Combined Authority manages the NEYH Local Energy Hub.




Home / Rural energy

Rural Decarbonisation Challenge launched

Businesses in the North East are being challenged to put forward potential solutions which could help communities in the region’s rural areas work towards decarbonisation. Josh Sawyer, Rural Energy Officer at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) explains more:

Regions all around the UK are working to reduce their emissions as part of the UK’s transition to a net zero economy.

The UK government has pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and, here in the North East, the newly-created North East Energy Catalyst is bringing partners together to help develop solutions to global energy challenges, including decarbonisation.

As part of our region’s drive towards reducing emissions, The Rural Decarbonisation Challenge has been launched, inviting North East businesses to put forward their own innovative solutions to the unique challenges faced by rural areas when it comes to decarbonisation.

Here in the North East we have large and varied rural areas which face very different circumstances from our towns and cities – for example, housing is less energy efficient, many communities are off the gas gird, transport options are limited, and digital connectivity is lower.

It’s vital that our rural areas are fully included as we work towards delivering solutions to decarbonisation in the North East, and that’s why we want to hear from businesses and organisations that may already be delivering solutions to some of the challenges faced by rural communities, as well as those who are keen to explore opportunities to begin to develop solutions.

The strongest ideas will be supported through development by the North East Energy Catalyst who can provide one to one support through their network of partners.

A workshop is being held on Monday 9 December at The Rivergreen Centre in Stannington for businesses and organisations that are interested in getting involved in The Rural Decarbonisation Challenge.

Find out more and register to attend.