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Back in July, we announced the launch of the M&S Energy Community Energy Fund, a £400,000 fund available to support community energy projects across Great Britain. We were absolutely delighted with the number of entries we received - 246 in total - and, after an initial shortlisting phase,we put 132 projects to the public vote. The interest this generated at a community level was really great to see and over 51,000 votes were cast.

We are now pleased to confirm all the winners. 19 projects from across Great Britain won up to £12,500 through the public vote to get their renewable projects off the ground. And they really are from all over Great Britain – funding was awarded from the Outer Hebrides, where the winner was the Comunn Eachdraidh Nis community hub on the Isle of Lewis, to Cornwall,where funding went to the Hayle Outdoor Swimming Pool.

Along with the £12,500 regional prize winners, two projects won the national prizes. Hartlepool Community Solar for Schools won £40,000 to support its ambition to supply 37 schools and colleges in Hartlepool with solar energy. The funding will help them install the first Solar School in Hartlepool at West Park Primary School. Their goal is to use this as a lighthouse project for all of the other schools in town. The £20,000 prize went to Just Around the Corner, a Berkshire-based youth charity which plans to use the funding to install solar panels on their activity site and stables, enabling them to reinvest funding elsewhere.

We also had a Judges' Prize pot for projects that, although didn’t win through the public vote, were shortlisted on going the extra mile for their community. For the judging day last week, I was joined by former Secretary of State for Energy Ed Davey, Chairman of Mongoose Energy, Giles Bristow from Forum for the Future, Louise Innes, a sustainability specialist from M&S Energy’s partner SSE and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a long term advocate of community energy projects. We deliberated for several hours over the 17 shortlisted projects and, so impressed by the entries, we eventually decided to award up to £12,500 each to five different projects.

These projects are the perfect examples of the innovative approach and range of communities across the UK that are taking to generating their own energy. The first Judges’ prize went to Harry's Hydrotherapy Pool,which aims to relieve sickness and improve quality of life for those with sensory, learning or profound multiple difficulties. The judges were impressed by the magnitude of work at the centre and the medical need in the community that it fulfils. Their solar panel installation will help the centre significantly reduce its pool heating costs and allocate those funds to expand the organisation.

The judges commended the All Saints Church Biomass Project for the support it had garnered in the community - it had already raised over£50,000 through fundraising. The Grade 2 listed church acts as a hub for the whole community, but is forced to stop activities in winter. The M&S Energy funding will enable it to get over its fundraising target for installing a biomass pellet heating system, a great example of an innovative approach to renewable technology options.

The Trinity Centre Conservation Project was selected for its services to the local community in the arts sector. The judges concluded that arts, education and heritage should continue to be of importance within communities. As the centre currently host thousands of people a year, they have a very wide reach and will be able to continue to offer a great service with the solar installation.

The aim of the Llyn Parc Mawr is to establish a sustainable woodland centre to benefit wildlife and contribute to the well-being of the community of Newborough. The judges were particularly struck with the project’s income initiative, working on the making of charcoal to develop a renewable income for the park. It was fantastic to see this level of community determination to take on the build independently and the ambition to be 100%sustainable. 

The final Judges’ winner was the Renewable Roadshow SE London, a project which demonstrates an inventive mind-set and keeps the future of energy at its core. It will use a specially designed solar trailer as an education tool for teaching the public about tackling fuel poverty and renewable energy in a memorable and engaging way.

26 very worthy winners who all worked very hard to secure funding for an incredible range of projects, doing everything from hosting events and campaigning in their local M&S store to running social media and PR campaigns to drum up support, all bringing the community together in support of renewable energy.

You can find out more about all the winners on the M&S Energy Community Energy Fund website.