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Bristol City Council Backs Community Energy Projects

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The Bristol Community Energy Fund is offering grants to projects that focus on energy in local communities. Grants of up to £10,000 are available to projects that positively develop the way energy is generated in communities, as well as how it powers them. The council’s Bristol Community Energy Fund will support projects that provide solutions to energy challenges faced by communities.

Through the fund, Bristol City Council is aiming to reach and engage with communities which have traditionally been less involved in the energy movement. The funding is not just for community energy groups but openly encourages community groups and organisations with charitable aims to apply in order to broaden the reach of valuable energy awareness and renewable technologies to the whole city. Funded projects should support these groups and local residents to:

  • Reduce energy use
  • Move towards cleaner and renewable sources of energy
  • Take measures that can help meet their energy needs affordably.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “I’m fully behind making Bristol carbon neutral by 2050 and addressing inequalities in the city.  For this, we need get the whole city involved. The groups least engaged with energy issues have tended to be those most prone to fuel poverty, least likely to access information that might encourage them to undertake energy efficiency measures or to benefit from generating their own energy.

“By supporting projects that help address the specific needs of communities, we can begin to bridge that gap, helping residents to gain from a more sustainable relationship with energy and the local environment.” 

Of the 32 submissions made under the first round of funding earlier this year, twelve projects were successful and received a total of over £53,000.  Local charity, Bristol Playbus, was one of them and will use their grant to add solar panels to their Sensory Truck, a mobile sensory environment for children with a disability or life-limiting illness. The solar panels mean that the equipment on the truck can work without the use of diesel generators.

Katie Hanchard-Goodwin, Project Coordinator at Bristol Playbus, said: “Here at Bristol Playbus, our goal is to ensure that geographical isolation and/or lack of specialist transportation is never an obstacle to a disabled child or young person’s ability to access the cutting edge specialist learning equipment they need to thrive. Our Sensory Truck allows us to bring sensory play facilities to the – often literal – doorsteps of these communities. The amazing support from the Bristol Community Energy Fund ensures that we continue to reach more and more of these kids all the time.”

Hillcrest Primary school also received a grant, which is contributing to getting children involved in using energy more efficiently.

Bridget Norman, Deputy Head of Hillcrest Primary in Brislington, said: “The grant from the Bristol Community Energy Fund has allowed us to work with the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Environmental Education project to help our Green Team, made up of 12 Year Five children, understand the importance of being more energy efficient at home, at school and in the journeys we make. Our Green Team are becoming ‘Energy Ambassadors’ and will look at ways to disseminate the information they have learnt to our school community as well as other schools who want to become more energy aware.”

The Bristol-based housing association, Ashley Housing, will use their funding to raise awareness among their tenants, helping them to become more energy efficient.

Naomi Gill from Ashley Housing, said: “Managing energy use in the home is a new concept to many of our tenants who are new to the UK and this is an opportunity to raise awareness and understanding of energy amongst the local BME community. We are planning to use the Bristol Community Energy Fund to run workshops covering a series of topics from global warming to draught proofing, with the aim of helping our tenants reduce their energy bills and share their knowledge with the wider community. The fund is enabling us to acquire the resources and staff to run the project, as well as helping us to adapt our properties to make them more energy efficient.”

Responding to feedback from groups that submitted proposals the first time around, the council has extended the application window to just over seven weeks.

There are two types of grant available to Bristol groups – the Small Grants which offer up to £2,000 and the Large Grants, which offer up to £10,000 to projects. Both grants are designed to encourage behavioural change and enable renewable or energy-efficiency projects. Applications for both grants must be submitted by 8 August 2016.

Those projects that weren’t successful the first time are also being encouraged to submit again, with Bristol City Council offering support to enhance those applications.

Community groups, individuals and businesses interested in getting involved in the local community energy scene can find more information on the fund’s website: www.bristolcommunityenergy.co.uk.

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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