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Western Power Distribution first UK DNO to recruit community energy engineers

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Community Energy

Western Power Distribution has become the first Distribution Network Operator in the UK to start recruiting community energy engineers to support grassroots low carbon electricity generation. 

Community energy has become a trending topic throughout the UK in recent years, but while DNOs across the country have been largely willing participants in community energy projects, they haven’t been too actively involved in their creation. 

Western Power Distribution wants to change that, with the company planning to employ four new community energy engineers to provide extensive assistance for around 100 existing community energy groups in its area, as well as enabling 150 new ones to get started by 2028.

Experts from Western Power Distribution will be able to offer hands-on advice to community energy groups in how to develop locally-managed solar, wind or hydro electricity generating schemes, all of which could reduce the carbon footprint of the local community, as well as their energy bills. 

Faithful Chanda, who is WPD’s first Community Energy Engineer, noted, “The idea behind this new role is to provide holistic support for communities, to help them navigate the complexities of the sector and ultimately turn their net zero ambitions into reality.

“We want to encourage more groups to connect their solar, wind or hydro projects onto the network and my job is to help them understand they are not alone in that process.”

Faithful and his colleagues will marry their technical understanding with local knowledge to help community energy groups get connected to WPD’s network.

To do this they will hold personalised one-to-one sessions, signpost to sources of finance and make introductions to additional contacts.

Plus, they’ll supply training, how-to guides, hold webinars, share case studies and stage events to raise awareness of low carbon technologies and renewable connections.

Under its business plan for 2023-28, WPD is committed to connecting 30 new community energy groups a year to its network ­ – a 150% increase. It also plans to hold 60 community energy surgeries a year.

“The role of community energy engineers is important if the UK is to decarbonise by 2035,” said Faithful. 

“Communities and companies like WPD will have to work closely to ensure low carbon technologies are adopted to bring about the scale of change needed.”

Of course, Western Power Distribution isn’t the only DNO to support community energy projects. UK Power Networks, for example, runs a £300,000 per year grant scheme called Power Partners, which could provide vital funding for community energy groups. 

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