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Last summer we launched the M&S Energy Community Energy Fund – a prize to install renewable technologies on community buildings. We have since been following up with the 2015 winners, and recently had the pleasure of visiting some truly inspirational community projects now that the installations are complete. 

One of the first site visits was to a judge’s prize winner – Harry’s Hydrotherapy pool (as pictured) –which aims to relieve sickness and improve the quality of life for those with sensory, learning or profound multiple difficulties. Meeting the team, led by Paula Fox, in person confirmed to us that our judge couldn’t have selected a more deserving project. Paula discussed the eight years of determined efforts to make the pool a reality and it is now a much-used community facility. One problem had been the high energy bills that resulted from having to heat the pool to 35C, so the M&S Energy prize funded the installation of solar panels which will result in a saving of at least £2,000 a year – money that can be ploughed back into expanding the life-changing facilities at the pool.

Skelton Grange Environment Centre, our West Yorkshire regional winner, amassed an impressive 1,612 public votes, winning £12,500 to install a ground source heat pump. Given the nature of the centre, environmental impact is clearly a huge focus for the organisation; from sourcing building materials locally to working towards their ambition of living completely off-grid by installing renewable technology. The heat pump fulfils all of the centre’s heating needs, reducing running costs and thus helping to increase their educational services. For example, on the day of the visit, volunteers were undertaking a woodwork class directed by an experienced local carpenter, building a new fence from materials sourced from the centre’s own woodland.

A highlight throughout the 2015 competition was the Easterside Partnership in Middlesbrough and the positivity surrounding the project remains post-installation – the team’s enthusiasm is inspiring and contagious!  Having gained 918 votes, the project was awarded £12,500 to install solar panels and an LED installation aimed at increasing security around their community centre. The project kindly invited us to the installation’s grand opening; a great way to give back to all the voters and the wider team that helped the project win.

The All Saints Church in Darlington was another project that demonstrated it was a worthy judge’s prize winner. The Church committee had been striving for a biomass installation for over two years and finally raised the last £12,500 needed to go ahead. Before that, they had reached a point where they were struggling to accommodate the congregation, especially during the winter months, and are now (finally) in a position to keep the Church choir practicing throughout the year without seeing their own breath!

So, these are a few accounts of some of our competition winners last year, and it has been so encouraging for us to see how far our funding has gone. The best part has been that so many of the teams remain focused on their ambitions of carbon reduction and becoming more self-sufficient in their energy use - and we were able to contribute to them completing a big part of their journey. 

This makes the next step in the M&S Energy Community Energy Fund all the more interesting, as we prepare to launch the competition again this summer. Applications are due to open on 3rd May and we’re looking forward to seeing even more inspiring community organisations apply and make their renewable energy generation projects a reality.


Find out more at: www.mandsenergyfund.com



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