Case study

Community Energy Solutions (CES)

A regional organisation extending gas networks, introducing renewable technologies and increasing energy efficiency.

Community Energy Solutions CIC

Access to natural gas is a given for most households in the UK, but for the estimated 3.6 million homes that are off-grid, the energy options available are usually more expensive and have a larger carbon footprint.

Since 2006, Community Energy Solutions (CES) CIC has been working in the North East and Yorkshire & Humber to connect homes – particularly those in fuel poverty– to gas mains and alternative renewable energy technologies, as well as providing insulation improvements. The CIC has been working alongside the Department of Energy and Climate Change and local development agencies.

Their holistic approach aims to provide energy efficiency, affordable heating and to make green technologies – air source heat pumps (ASHPs) and solar photovoltaics (solar PV) – more cost-effective and competitive.

CES started out in 2003 as a company limited by guarantee, becoming a CIC in 2006. The company reinvests its surpluses into new projects.

“Our initial government funding has ceased and we’re now working on a wholly commercial basis. We need to remain sustainable,” says Lynne Edwards, who was recently appointed CEO of CES.

In order to continue providing services to social landlords and the fuel poor, CES makes a margin through its services to the private market – “offering our services at a fair price and making them as accessible to as many customers as possible,” says Edwards. CES uses government and industry carbon-reduction initiatives and incentives to offset the costs of its services.

“CES embraced the CIC model because it enabled us to formalise our social enterprise mission and statement,” says Edwards. “In terms of status and trust, the CIC model has been very positive.”

Edwards is proud of CES’s achievements to date: “We’ve helped over 250,000 residents access advice and funding for energy efficiency, and over 700 people to draw benefits that they’re entitled to but hadn’t accessed. That’s income worth £2.5m over two years into a local economy where financial intervention reduces poverty by exerting a disproportionately positive effect on the fuel poor.”

The CIC has also installed more than 1,000 ASHPs and has introduced more than 4,000 homes to gas.

CES is currently involved in a large scheme that has surveyed more than 30,000 social housing properties, over half of which are deemed suitable to be fitted with solar PV. “There are huge challenges to deliver this scheme within a limited government time frame –installations need to be carried out at a rate of 300 roofs per week,” says Edwards. “But that’s why we’re here – to address market failure and meet challenges which are unacceptable to the commercial sector.”

Name Community Energy Solutions (CES)
Location Boldon, Tyne-on-Wear
Company structure CIC limited by guarantee
Founded Became a CIC in 2006
Community interest statement We are a non-profit distributing organisation committed to helping to bring affordable warmth to those in off-gas communities.

Find out more about Community Energy Solutions (CES)

Published 12 November 2013