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Energy sector working with communities to ‘make a real difference’ during challenging times

Image: Vattenfall.

Image: Vattenfall.

As the nationwide COVID-19 pandemic continues in the UK, energy companies and projects around the country are working with local communities to support them through this challenging time.

SSE Renewables and Greencoat Renewables announced yesterday (8 April) that they had launched a €70,000 (£61,430) COVID-19 response fund. Volunteer-led community groups around the Galway Wind Park, which the pair jointly own, will be able to apply for funding immediately.

John O’Sullivan at Galway Wind Park Operations said that as a member of the community, the team at the park has an important role to play in supporting those impacted by COVID-19.

“From the outset of the COVID-19 emergency, community and voluntary groups have responded remarkably to provide services and supports for the vulnerable in our society.

"From the smallest gestures, such as calling those living alone, to more organised and larger-scale home delivery efforts, volunteers across our community are making a real difference to people, especially the elderly or unwell, at this very anxious time.”

This funding is coming from the overall Galway Wind Park annual Community Fund, but is being released early to address immediate concerns. There will be additional funding available in coming months to help rebuild the community, as well.

Similarly, EDF Renewables’ Burnfoot Hill Wind Farm is redirecting its local community funding to support community-led COVID-19 related responses. Located in Clackmannanshire, the four nearest communities - Alva, Dollar, Menstrie and Tillicoultry and Coalsnaughton and Devonside – will all receive an equal share of the £12,000.

EDF Renewables CEO Matthieu Hue said: “During these unsettling times it is clear communities working together is essential and it is great to see people are pulling together to help those who are most in need.

"It is heart-warming to see the Hillfoots communities use the wind farm fund in this way. I wish them the very best of success in their community endeavours and I hope everyone stays safe throughout this difficult time.”

Each community will use the money as they see best, with Alva’s going to its food bank and extending services to the vulnerable and Dollars to its community food larder, which is issuing food parcels.

Anne Spruce, of Alva Community Council, said: “The Development Trust have applied for funding from a large number of sources but as of Friday had not heard from any. They have given out over 100 food parcels in the last week and received generous food donations from many sources. Knowing that the £3,000 is available when it’s needed is a great relief.”

Tillicoultry is using the grant to help provide information for the community, as is Menstrie along with organising essentials bag to hand deliver to all elderly, vulnerable and self-isolating residents within the village.

At Vattenfall’s Ormonde Offshore Wind Farm in Barrow in Furness, food packages have been distributed and stockpiled personal protective equipment has been given to local hospitals and key workers.

Paul Thomson, operations and maintenance manager at the farm said that they wanted to do what they could to help “during these unprecedented times".

“Many doctors, nurses and key workers are working extra-long hours to save lives and keep society functioning, meaning they are unable to get to the shops before they close. When they eventually do get to a shop they find the shelves are already empty.

“In addition to this, we have donated personal protective equipment from our own supplies to keep our local health care providers and keyworkers safe as they fight to save lives. I would like to thank my team for supporting this initiative during these uncertain times.”

Companies like British Gas have formed partnerships to help deliver food parcels, announcing that while working with the Trussell Trust it was hoping to support 50,000 deliveries a month.

Elsewhere, the Community Energy Scheme in Stoke-on-Trent has given its 4,500 members a payment break for April, May and June. The solar scheme said this should save them over £200,000 in energy costs.

“During these challenging times, we can strengthen our community by supporting each other,” said Tim Day, head of the Community Energy Scheme.

Community for Renewables also announced that its members had raised £100,000 from surplus generation of community-owned solar projects for Corona Crisis Funds.

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