Green groups share �1m prize for cutting emissions

Four community groups scooped a share of a £1 million prize for green schemes which cut emissions by up to a third over the past year.

Four community groups scooped a share of a £1 million prize for green schemes which cut emissions by up to a third over the past year.

The groups won Nesta's Big Green Challenge to encourage communities to reduce their carbon emissions, through measures including free energy surveys for homes and small scale renewables such as hydropower.

The winners were the Green Valleys, based in the Brecon Beacons in Wales, the Household Energy Service in Ludlow, Shropshire and the Isle of Eigg, Scotland, while Low Carbon West Oxford was the runner-up.

Each of the winners receives £300,000 and the runner-up receives £100,000 to further their projects to cut carbon in their local area.

They were chosen from 10 finalists who each had a year, with support and £20,000 in funding, to implement their schemes, after more than 350 community groups entered the initial competition.

The chairman of the judges, Lord Puttnam, said: "While Copenhagen showed just how difficult it is to reach consensus amongst governments, the Big Green Challenge shows how local efforts can triumph.

"When people are empowered and given intelligent support they can make the world of difference in the fight against climate change."

Jonathan Kestenbaum, chief executive of innovation endowment organisation Nesta, said: "The Big Green Challenge has shown that communities are a vital force in solving some of society's biggest problems.

"We can no longer afford to pay lip service to the importance of local solutions - now is the time to support communities to make a real difference."

The four projects are:

  • The Green Valleys, which aims to make the Brecon Beacons region a net exporter of energy through community renewable projects, managed to cut carbon by 20% across 155 homes and four public buildings. The organisation, which will reinvest all revenues from selling green energy into low carbon projects including electric bikes and community woodlands, is supporting installations such as a hydroelectric scheme which will generate around 80% of the energy needed by the local community.
  • The Household Energy Service based in Ludlow, Shropshire, is community service which runs free environmental surveys to help people cut their energy use and bills, and assistance on implementing the advice. Providing the audits and helping people take steps ranging from draught proofing to installing renewable energy units has helped cut emissions by 10% from the 460 homes which have taken part in the scheme.
  • The community on the Isle of Eigg is working together on a range of carbon-cutting projects from installing solar panels and insulation to producing local food to reduce their "food miles". With most of the island's 38 households involved, they have managed to reduce their emissions by 32% in the past year.
  • Low Carbon West Oxford is installing community-owned renewable energy schemes, including solar panels on local businesses, wind turbines on a school and a micro-hydroelectric project on a local weir. The community group, which raises funds for the schemes by selling shares to local people, is ploughing all the money from the sale of electricity into helping households cut their emissions, and has reduced CO2 by 28% across 55 families, businesses and public buildings.

According to Nesta, the competition inspired the formation of new community groups to take green action, with many entrants continuing their work despite not being selected as one of the 10 finalists.

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