Leanne Visits - Ynni Ogwen

Read about Leanne's visit to one of our members, Ynni Ogwen.

Published: 09.09.2023 ( 10 months ago )

If you are looking to be inspired, you don’t need to look much further than the work a small group of committed citizens ae carrying out in Bethesda under the auspices of Ynni Ogwen and Partneriaeth Ogwen.

Our new co-executive director Leanne Wood recently visited Bethesda to learn about what they do there.

Partneriaeth Ogwen were set up by 3 community councils in 2013 to develop regeneration projects in the slate mining communities of Dyffryn Ogwen. In 2014-15, they led on developing a community micro hydro scheme which is now Ynni Ogwen. Hundreds of thousands of pounds were raised through a community share offer and the impressive micro hydro turbine was installed on the River Ogwen, near the site of a previous hydro scheme in what can only be described as an absolutely stunning location.

Now, the profits from the hydro scheme have helped to develop other community initiatives. Partneriaeth Ogwen own a number of properties - shops which are let out to other linked community initiatives and the flats above them which are let out to local people struggling to access the property market. One of the shops is ‘Pantri Pesda’ which recycles food that the supermarkets can’t sell and would otherwise go to waste. Energy efficiency and money saving advice sessions are held there too.

On my visit to Bethesda, I was shown the site of Canolfan Cefnfaes - a former school which the Partneriaeth has taken over on a lease from the council to create a community hub, which will also house the fleet of EV community vehicles they have. The school is next to the library, another community asset transfer project led by Partneriaeth Ogwen where they have made a number of environmental improvements to the building including installing an EV charge point and working with Ynni Ogwen to install PVs on the roof.

As well as the library, Ynni Ogwen have also partnered up with other community organisations and sporting clubs to install solar panels on the roofs and they are hoping to work in a similar way with Gwynedd County Council to install the panels on publicly owned buildings in the area. This can considerably reduce the energy bills for public bodies.

The massive hike in electricity prices which have come with the hike in gas prices has meant that Ynni Ogwen’s surplus this year has exceeded their expectations. In order to redistribute wealth they are considering how this surplus can be used to support the members of their community who are at the highest risk of fuel poverty. Providing electricity vouchers for those on pre payment meters through an ‘energy bank’ - the energy equivalent of a food bank is one of the options they are considering, as well as buying slow cookers, with Y Pantri for those struggling with cooking costs. They know that this would be a sticking plaster solution to what is essentially energy injustice, but it is an essential sticking plaster nonetheless.

Direct supply has always been an aspiration for Ynni Ogwen. The Energy Local model has been operating in Bethesda for the past 4 years but that scheme uses power from another local hydro scheme and not Ynni Ogwen’s power. The Energy Local Scheme offers a lower local social tariff for people in Bethesda who use their electricity when the Berthen hydro is turning but this is done through virtual netting of power through a commercial supplier. It would be much easier if Ynni Ogwen and other community energy groups were able to produce and sell their energy to local people directly, but the market and the system prevents that. That’s just one thing we need to change.

If every community had the equivalent of a Partneriaeth Ogwen and Ynni Ogwen, we could go a long way towards reducing our country’s carbon footprint, tackling fuel poverty and building in resilience to future energy price shocks. It would also help us to become more independent - in both mind and spirit.

The people I met in Bethesda are a small group of committed citizens changing the world. and they are keen to share their knowledge and experience to help others do the same.

If you want to set up a community group to take practical actions on climate change and fuel poverty, get in touch with us at Community Energy Wales.

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