North and South Unite for Community Energy peer learning exchange

On 17-18 October, delegates from East Durham visited Community Energy groups, Ovesco and Community Energy South in Lewes, East Sussex to share expertise and learning about delivering community energy at either ends of the country.

The two day visit included meetings with Senior Civil Servants from Department of Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), Leader of Lewes District Council Zoe Nicholson, Matthew Bird Green Mayor of Lewes, CEO of Community Energy South Ollie Pendered & CEO of Ovesco Chris Rowland along with representatives from Ouse Valley Climate Action (OVCA) a local area based Climate Lottery funded programme.

County Durham representatives included Graham Easterlow, CEO of the East Durham Development Trust, Derek Robson, manager of Horden Together within Durham County Council, and Ellie Grimes, the council’s Low Carbon Development officer, as well as Jack Bamber Community Engagement specialist and Helen Taylor community volunteer.

The groups from the North and South shared their learnings from the projects that they have carried out to date, and exchanged tips and information about how to grow projects, obtain funding and work towards project completion.

To demonstrate support for this shared knowledge and experience project the group were invited to a breakfast with Lewes Mayor Matthew Bird, an evening with LDC leader Zoe Nicholson and a briefing from Patrick Allcorn, Local Energy Lead at DESNZ.

Of the schemes discussed was the Horden Minewater project, which is being developed in partnership by Durham County Council, its Horden Together project, the East Durham Trust and Horden Parish Council, to explore how water from former coalmines can be used to heat homes, schools and businesses.

Graham Easterlow, CEO of the East Durham Development Trust said:

“We work in Horden, an ex coal mining village with a proud history of energy generation through mining and we want to continue that tradition with community owned renewable project, that keeps income in the community, rather than sending it away.”

Cllr Mark Wilkes, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said:

“We are delighted to have been involved in this partnership exchange where we were able to share knowledge and expertise to help develop leading climate initiatives as, within County Durham, we are working to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

The Horden Minewater project is part of our Climate Emergency Response Plan where we are working in partnership to bring renewable heat and energy to East Durham. As we take this project forward, it has been great to learn from organisations such as Community Energy South and those from the Ouse Valley Project and use this collaboration to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change as much as we can.”

Ollie Pendered said:

“There is an obvious benefit for each area to learn from each other.  East Durham have undertaken feasibility work to develop unique and inspiring mine water heat project in Horden that has the potential to be an iconic community energy scheme. Ovesco are an established community energy group and experienced in developing complex projects and also providing local energy advice to residents across the Ouse Valley from Lewes to the coastal communities of Seaford, Peacehaven and Newhaven. There are opportunities for lots of shared learning and we can start with how the East Durham team can set up their own Community Energy group and also talk to the Lottery about replicating the Ouse Valley Climate Action project.”


Read the full report on the Durham visit.

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