When Good Energy met the National Trust

Posted in: Energy

Posted on: 11.01.2017

Since 2012, Good Energy has had a fantastic time working in partnership with our friends at the National Trust.

Together, we’ve been raising awareness of climate change, building new renewable projects at Trust places and inspiring the nation to do something simple for the environment and switch to Good Energy’s 100% renewable electricity and green gas.

We’re proud that part of our 100% renewable fuel mix now comes from the Trust as well, including its hydro turbines at Hafod y Llan in Snowdonia, Hayeswater in Cumbria and its waterwheel at Aberdulais Falls near Neath.

To celebrate our pioneering work over the last five years, Good Energy’s CEO Juliet Davenport recently met with the Trust’s Director-General Helen Ghosh at Croft Castle in Herefordshire to discuss how far we’ve come, what we’ve achieved so far and where we are going next.

Why did the National Trust & Good Energy go into partnership?

Helen: Our partnership with Good Energy fits completely with our strategy.

What we do, and what we’ve done for the last 120 years, is to make sure we respond to the challenges of our time. For us, the biggest conservation challenge today, is that of climate change which is why we wanted our energy work to emphasise how we would play our part.

Juliet: We first became partners at a time when the Trust was really thinking about its approach to energy. Initially, we started working together on a pilot programme which would see five new renewable projects, from hydro turbines and biomass boilers to marine source heat pumps, built at several Trust properties.

The Trust is a fascinating and iconic organisation so it was great to see it making such a commitment to cleaner forms of energy generation and really moving forward in terms of tackling climate change.

Helen: At that time, we set ourselves a 10 year challenge to reduce our energy use by 20% and source half of our energy from renewable sources by 2020. We also wanted to show how this can still be done in both sensitive landscapes and historic buildings.

Thanks to Good Energy’s help and advice, we’re not only on track to reach both of these targets, we’re also set to have a much lower reliance on fossil fuels by 2020 (less than 10%) than we first expected. It’s been a great partnership in terms of business and practical advice but also through the shared feeling that we’re on the same journey together.

Juliet: The partnership also offered a great opportunity to get Good Energy’s name and what we do out there to a really switched on audience and hopefully inspire more people to start their own renewable energy story at home by switching to a cleaner, greener tariff.

Plus for every customer who switches to Good Energy, we also provide the Trust with an annual donation. This is then used to support further renewable and conservation projects around the UK.

How far have renewables come in the UK?

Juliet: We’ve seen a dramatic change across the energy industry over the last 10-15 years. When I first started working in renewables, the whole of the sector could fit inside a small room above a pub in London. Today, renewables now provide 25% of all the UK’s electricity needs, growing from just 4% 10 years ago.

Helen: But it’s not the technology that has change. More and more communities are looking at and choosing renewables. The more we can get communities involved, the better. It’s the Trust’s hope that renewable projects like ours will demonstrate to communities that they can do it to.

Juliet: Completely! Partnerships like Good Energy’s and the National Trust’s allow us to prove the concept works. We think there are over five thousand communities across UK who are now involved in renewable energy projects and they’re looking to organisations like the Trust to see how they are doing it.

Energy is becoming much more decentralised and local – we don’t need to rely on old-fashioned power stations miles away from where we use it – and communities are becoming a real antidote for this.

A key part of the National Trust’s 10 year strategy is creating a more beautiful natural environment. In terms of new renewable projects, what can Trust members expect to see at the places and land in the Trusts’ care?

Helen: What they will see in a number of places, is renewable energy schemes which are integrated with the buildings and its spirit of place so that our visitors can really get to know how these new systems are working and helping the environment.

What they’ll also see is that we’ll be managing our woodlands in a particular way that both produce the wood chip we need for heating while also allowing us to clear the conifers and create new habitats for wildlife.

The biomass boiler at Croft Castle is a perfect example of this. We’ve organised this as a programme, so that one place can continually learn from another.

Finally, what are you most excited about in the world of renewables right now and where do you think we’ll go in the next 50 years?

Helen: People are becoming more and more accepting that we’re moving in to a world where renewable energy is becoming the new normal. That’s what really excites me. We’re also getting a better focus on what are the most effective forms of renewable energy as the technology continues to get better. That’s where I think the next big step lies.

Juliet: What excites me most is that if you look at the amount that was invested in renewable energy last year globally, it outstrips fossil fuels. We’re now at a tipping point where investment is growing worldwide and as a result, technology is improving and coming down in price.

The next step, as Helen said, will be bringing in new technologies and more innovation. Tidal energy offers us a huge opportunity and the innovation possibilities – including decentralised energy, a smart digitalised grid and battery storage - are endless too. I think in the next few years we’re going to see real changes in how we use and manage our energy.

A shorter version of this interview first appeared in the winter 2017 edition of the National Trust magazine.

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