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Energy expert Peter Gudde has some advice for communities aiming for a Zero Carbon New Year

In the spirit of the season, I thought it would be good to offer some ideas to help your community step into a Zero Carbon New Year.

I have spent many hours in draughty village halls which, for the lack of investment, have kept them from being the beating heart of the community. When it comes to improving community building energy performance, one of the first questions I get asked is what to do first, followed by ‘is there a grant?’.

To answer to the first question, it’s wise to start with insulating the roof, walls, windows and floor along with draught-proofing doors to stop heat leaking out. This will save money and, depending on how the building is used, should pay back both financially and with higher levels of comfort for all. Once you have control of the building energy performance you can then turn to renewable heat and power.

Peter Gudde
Peter Gudde

Knowing how to make the improvements will need a bit of research and expertise. Many trustees of community buildings have amazing experience and knowledge but if you need a bit of inspiration, talk to other communities who have upgraded their buildings or contact your local council, which may be able to signpost you.

There are loads of online resources with the Centre for Sustainable Energy, Community Energy England and Green Suffolk my personal starting points.

For smaller buildings, some of the home energy advice available through the Energy Saving Trust website may prove useful and if you have an older or historical building then it’s worth visiting the Historic England website.

Moving on to to paying for the work, I hope you find my take on the Twelve Days of Christmas helpful. My rendition does not involve festive fowl, leaping lords, or even have 12 verses, but it might help get your projects funded.

On the First Day of Christmas, I approached the National Lottery.

On the Second Day, I contacted my local council about the Community Infrastructure Fund and other public grants

On the Third Day, I called my local councillor to ask about their locality budget

For the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Days, I visited Community Energy England funding database, the Landfill Communities Fund managed by Entrust and the Green Suffolk funding page

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, I checked out the community grants offered by national retailers or energy companies

On the Eighth, I spoke to a few installers to see if they offered funding or low interest loans

On the Ninth Day, I asked around my village about whether we could crowd fund the work ourselves

On the Tenth, we pooled our ideas on how to find a rich benefactor who could offer funding.

On the Eleventh Day, we ran a fund-raiser.

And on the Twelfth Day of Christmas, we reached our target and got the work done.

With every hope of 2022 seeing us return to some level of normality, let’s get our community buildings Zero Carbon fit.

-- Peter Gudde is an Energy advisor and environmental researcher