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This blog site is no longer in use. The MLEI Cambridgeshire project is ongoing and you can find out more at www.mleicambs.org.uk

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Cambridgeshire politicians approve Investment Fund

An important milestone was reached for the MLEI project last week, following Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet’s decision to proceed with a phased approach to developing a Low Carbon Investment Fund, and offering loan finance to schools through Energy Performance Contracting.

Cabinet agreed to:
• Set up a Fund using public borrowing
• Develop and evolve the fund during the next 6-9 months to attract further public and private sector monies
• Procure a supplier for energy performance contracting for schools and public buildings
• To offer schools access to loans on a first come first served basis

The project team are proceeding with procurement of a supplier for energy performance contracting, using an existing framework contract. We have also commenced our schools engagement programme with a view to getting the first funding packages for investment developed later this year.

Communities powering change

Last week the Department for Energy and Climate Change released its first ever ‘Community Energy Strategy’. The Strategy is all about encouraging energy efficiency and low carbon energy at local scale, through grassroots and local authority led activity.

DECC’s definition of ‘community energy’ is deliberately broad, ranging from home insulation advice and collective switching schemes to community energy generation projects. But what is interesting is how Strategy highlightsr the role of local authorities in creating and supporting opportunities for community energy. This can be through:
• Provision of information and advice
• Coordination of community activity
• Support through the planning process and encouraging communities to incorporate energy into their neighbourhood plan
• Provision of loan funds and financial support.

Clearly the last point is where MLEI Cambridgeshire fits in – we even got a mention in the Secretary of State’s covering letter! MLEI Cambridgeshire is currently in the first phase of developing and testing our Low Carbon Investment Fund on Cambridgeshire County Council’s own buildings and schools, and we would like to make the offer of loan finance available to community groups in due course.

Meeting Cambridgeshire’s Energy Needs – what next?

Seasons Greetings!

A formal note of our Community Event on the 21st November is now available Notes from MLEI Community Event 21st Nov.

The purpose of the event was to bring together participants from the Cambridgeshire Renewables Infrastructure Framework (CRIF) project which was the predecessor of the MLEI project, to update them on MLEI and the structures currently being discussed to facilitate development of low carbon infrastructure.

In some very lively and challenging discussions some questions arose that have provoked much further thought from the MLEI team…

To what extent is the model of low carbon investment fund and low carbon delivery unit a ‘done deal’? Certainly there needs to be flexibility within the model to accommodate new ideas and opportunities. The MLEI project team are now looking at a phased development model which will continue to evolve as further investment projects are developed. This model needs to be able to adapt as circumstances change.

Is the level of ambition appropriate? This is an interesting one as a certain level of ambition is necessary to get projects like this off the ground. Our view is that the longer term our ambitions around overall investment levels are appropriate in that it sets clearly the vision for what we’re trying to achieve. However, its important that we take smaller, incremental steps in the shorter term, testing and refining as we go, sharing our learning and open to collaboration. This is a more pragmatic approach that recognises the many challenges faced in delivering low carbon infrastructure.

How can MLEI help community scale projects? There are three aspects of work here for the MLEI team:
First is around developing the project pipeline – a major priority for the project. This includes some feasibility work on community buildings retrofit, which Huntingdonshire District Council are progressing, but also includes our work looking at retrofit of schools and other public buildings using an Energy Performance Contracting arrangement to manage the work.

Second is the issue of how we can use our existing skills and knowledge to support community groups to develop projects. This is an issue we would like to build into considerations for the role of the Low Carbon Development Unit, especially beyond the initial MLEI project period up to 2015.

Third and related to the previous point is how we can ensure the Low Carbon Development Unit (LCDU) and Low Carbon Investment Fund (LCIF) is properly financially supported during the first few years of operation. A proposal for public funds from the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership has been submitted, seeking funds to support investments, and to support the functioning of the LCDU.

Meeting Cambridgeshire’s Energy Needs – join us ONLINE

Last chance to register if you want to attend our community event on Thursday. Click here to sign up.

Can’t come? You can still take part!
We plan to webcast the event from 4pm on Thursday. During the webcast you will be able to view the proceedings live including any presentation slides, as well as taking part with your comments or tweets. We would particularly welcome any comments about local energy projects and ideas for our pipeline of low carbon energy projects in Cambridgeshire.

You can access the event here. Please log on to the site so that you can comment (we will prioritise comments from participants that have logged in).

Hope you can join us online – please let me know on mlei@cambridgeshire.gov.uk

Meeting Cambridgeshire’s Energy Needs

An invitation to consider the Cambridgeshire Renewables Infrastructure Framework and what happened next…

Before MLEI there was CRIF – the Cambridgeshire Renewable Infrastructure Framework project!
The CRIF Project spent nine months building up the evidence base for what levels of energy we will need in the future in Cambridgeshire to sustain and grow our businesses, manage rising fuel costs and secure local energy supplies to build energy resilience, self sufficiency and local jobs.

As you all know, the work didn’t stop there. The Mobilising Local Energy Investment Project responds directly to the questions raised by CRIF – specifically the need for upfront investment in low carbon infrastructure on a scale that brings multiple benefits for the local economy and communities.

We are running a short event on the 21st November to re-engage all of the communities that were involved in the CRIF project, specifically to share proposals for the Low Carbon Investment Fund and Low Carbon Development Unit – a financial and delivery arrangement that would help deliver low carbon energy projects on a greater scale and at a faster pace than ever before in Cambridgeshire.

The event is open, so anyone wishing to find out a bit more about the project is welcome.

Date: Thursday 21st November 2013
Time: 16:00 – 18:00pm
Venue: Hauser Forum, West Cambridge University Site, Cambridge
Price: FREE

Please register to attend on eventbrite, or contact mlei@cambridgeshire.gov.uk
by Tuesday 19th November with any queries.

The Big Energy Debate – is it helping and how does MLEI fit in?

You cannot fail to have noticed that energy is big in the news at the moment!
The media coverage has revolved around two main areas:

The big six energy companies – their profits, delivery obligations and contested claims about these – and the rising cost of energy for their customers
and,
Blackouts – our resilience (or lack of) to peaks in energy demand and what we should do about it – be that through new nuclear and other sources of energy on home ground, or increased reliance on imported energy and the risks that entails.

The debate rages with politicians challenging the energy companies over recent price hikes, and energy companies applying pressure on government over green levies. In the meantime there is no clear consensus on the question of how our energy needs are to be met, and the role of small scale low carbon energy in the broader energy mix. Government may have given the go-ahead to the UK’s first nuclear power station in a generation but it will be 10 years before Hinkley is helping power the country and the guaranteed minimum price will be double today’s price.

It’s possible that the confusion this creates, risks undermining future investment in low carbon energy infrastructure.

Having said that the Renewable Energy Association has recently reported increased signs of confidence in the renewable energy market, and renewables enjoy higher levels of public support than any other energy generation technology.

There are some positives to share from a local perspective too:

Projects like MLEI are poised to help ensure that Cambridgeshire can benefit from a higher proportion of its energy mix coming from renewable sources – that is low carbon sources that do not rely on imports, and have the added benefit of supporting local low carbon related businesses (installers etc.) In fact according to the Treasury, investment in energy has greatest potential in terms of scale and dispersal across the country, than any other sector.

MLEI delivery will also create the opportunity for more community based schemes, whereby heat and electricity can be provided and even sold directly to customers and as a result costs can be kept low.