This is an excerpt from the minutes from our meeting in January 2017
Regional Case Study: Mobilising Local Energy Investment in Cambridgeshire
Cherie Gregoire, MLEI
Cambridgeshire is a very rural county – so there is a lot of contrast between our and your experiences. For example, we have farm
estates, so one of our projects was a 12MW solar farm. We also have a huge growth agenda but with a very constrained network, so we need to develop better energy infrastructure. We wanted to be
able to offer Energy Performance Contracting and procured a partner under the REFIT framework (Bouygues).
We’re taking the lessons that we have learned from MLEI and the changing policy environment (e.g. reducing FIT rates) to move into our next phase. We had used FITs a lot to underpin our business model. We have an investment fund in place – we have £30m from PWLB which we use to loan out to schools, local authority sites and others. We add on little to the loan interest rate so that we can be self-funding.
We’ve invested over £18m, saving over £1.5m per year. A large proportion is from the 12MW solar farm, but we have also done projects in 23 schools and 7 corporate buildings. For Academies, we developed a managed services agreement in order to provide PWLB to them, done in consultation with the EFA. These have tended to be the larger schools. On corporate buildings, we’ve mainly done PV and lighting upgrades.
MLEI has led to upskilling of internal staff but also of Members.
Roughly1/4 to 1/3 of schools come to us because their boiler is coming to the end of its life. We start with that but build a package around that.
Lessons learned: there’s a big difference between potential projects and investible projects. In terms of our own buildings, Cambridgeshire has a focus towards rationalisation. We would be looking at projects only to find out that we would be disposing of buildings or changing the use of sites. On the schools side, there was a large learning curve for both parties – the decision making process is longer and requires more handholding. You need political cover for the development of projects, because there is a financial risk in developing projects that might not come off.
On electricity market reform – we are doing a smart energy grid demonstrator project. We’re looking to build a 1MW project – PV with battery storage, electric vehicle charging, and the remaining electricity sold to a local customer. We have our funding and are looking for match funding from ERDF. The project helps us to generate revenue which can then be used for services such as Adult Social Care.
We’re in the stage where REFIT 2 has closed so I wanted to find out if anyone has been using REFIT 3 and how it compares. We’re also interested in others’ experiences of negotiating bi-directional PPAs and with PV and energy storage.