Ace partner meeting: energy neutrality, maintaining momentum and award preparations

Author: Alexandra Steeland 15/04/2014

The National Energy Foundation is one of nine energy organisations working in partnership across England, Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands to develop Ace, a transnational Academy of Champions for Energy. Ace is funded by the INTERREG IVB NWE programme and brings together public and private agencies to promote renewable energy and energy transition. By sharing and disseminating information through the academy, it is hoped that an increased uptake of renewable energy will be encouraged.

Ace partner meeting - day 1

The 7th Ace partner meeting began on 8th April and was hosted by Regen SW in Exeter. To kick off, all partners were invited to attend Regen SW’s Renewable Energy Marketplace, the South West’s biggest energy event covering renewables, energy efficiency measures and generation. The event featured talks, advice on saving energy and community engagement, live demonstrations of the latest technologies and the chance to test drive a range of green cars.

Ace partner meeting - day 2

On day two, the partner meeting was held at Highfield Farm’s Court Barn, an eco-friendly conference centre. The barn was built using sustainably sourced materials and is powered by a 10kw solar PV system, with heating provided by a 90kw biomass boiler run on wood produced on site. During a tour of the site, it was explained that the farm welcomes around 55 school groups each year to learn about wildlife habitats and organic farming. The venue proved a perfect location for inspiring the progression of the academy and its projects.

During the meeting, we ran a workshop for the partners on energy neutral villages. The aim of the workshop was to identify potential projects which could help a village achieve energy neutrality, and means by which momentum could be maintained and success measured throughout such projects. To start discussions, a question and answer session was held with Mary Popham from Transition Town Totnes, who provided insights and lessons learned from the world’s first transition town.

Mary gave an overview of how the transition movement began in Totnes and the vital role of raising awareness through holding talks and film screenings. She highlighted the importance of the social element of many of their initiatives, such as Transition Streets, which involves neighbours coming together to find ways to save money on their energy bills, whilst getting to know each other better in the process. Eight years on, Transition Town Totnes has started over thirty projects and has established itself as an exemplar of community-led action. Hearing about the success of the initiative inspired a productive workshop and helped generate lots of ideas for ensuring community projects flourish from start to finish.

Following the workshop, the partners were updated on the progress of the Ace investments, which include a pilot biomass community farm in France, a village working towards 100% energy self-sufficiency in the Netherlands and the development of an innovative smart energy citizens' plaza in Ireland. These demonstration sites are intended to enable shared learning and to provide best practice examples of projects which can be replicated across Europe.

Ace partner meeting - day 3

Day three focused on preparations for the preliminary Ace Awards and the north-west Europe finals to be held in the Netherlands later this year. If you know of or are involved with a community-based renewable energy project, a village approaching energy self-sufficiency or an energy smart initiative run by a local authority.

For more information about the Ace project, visit the Ace website or follow the project on Twitter via @aceforenergy