On two of the finest sunny days in May 2005, the Knoydart community, Knoydart Foundation and Knoydart Hydro company (now Knoydart Renewables) had the pleasure of hosting the Community Energy Conference: “Empowering Your Community”.
Forty delegates were transported, accommodated and dined by Knoydart community members and the conference, a gathering of like minded innovative companies and individuals, was deemed a resounding success by everyone.
The event was opened by Matt Humphrey, director of the Knoydart Foundation and chairman of Knoydart Hydro Ltd, with a brief welcome. Professor Jim Hunter, the keynote speaker, then gave the first address and eloquently reminded the audience that climate change was bearing down on us all and that now is the time for action. Lorna Campbell, from Campbell Consulting, spoke on community consultation which initiated a lengthy open debate, then Lorne MacLeod, in his capacity as Chairman, in the blazing Knoydart sun, offically launched the Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company.
Speakers then guided the audience on the requisites of starting a community renewable energy system: Eric Dodd from the H & I Community Energy Company on funding, David Herd from Social Investment Scotland on finance, Susan Poole from the Highland Council on planning, Bill Band from SNH on the environmental implications.
Following workshops on funding, community consultation, technical aspects, ROCs [renewable energy certificates], company structures and planning/environment, coupled with site visits to Knoydart Hydro’s turbine house with Pit Klemm, Bob Wright and Jim Brown from Knoydart Hydro, the next speakers offered accounts of the reality of running and starting community energy companies. Eleanor Logan from the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust spoke about Gigha Wind Farm’s very successful three dancing ladies and Colin Risbridger from the Westray Development Trust enthused on the subject of biodiesel and the feasibility of it’s production.
Chairmen for the sessions during the first day were Lorne Macleod and Nicholas Gubbins from the H & I Community Energy Company and Davie Newton, director of the Knoydart Foundation.
The second day started with John Duncanson from John Duncanson Engineering, in the chair, introducing Angela Williams, Development Manager of the Knoydart Foundation and Jim Brown, from Knoydart Hydro’s technical support to talk about running a stand-alone hydro electric company. Patrick Ross-Smith from the PURE project then spoke on Unst’s hydrogen systems. Colin Anderson spoke about connecting wind projects to the grid and Neil Stewart gave the veiwpoint of the Scottish Executive on renewable energy projects now and in the future.
Nicholas Gubbins and Jim Hunter concluded the day with some significant points of note and thanks. Nicholas Gubbins predicted that in fifty years time there would be disbelief at the wanton consumption of hydro carbon fuels by today’s population and that the people gathered at the conference would stand out as pioneers. The very fact that the conference took place was a beacon of hope. Jim Hunter observed that, with all the talk of feeding green energy back into the grid, it was interesting that the conference was hosted by the last UK mainland community without a connection to the national grid.
“It was a fantastic conference and very positive.” said Knoydart Hydro’s Matt Humphrey. Apart from an overheated projector bulb and some minor plumbing inconveniences in the village hall there were no problems and hydro’s turbine powered the conference with ease.
The event was organised by Marion O’Hara from the H & I Community Energy Company and Angela Williams with help from Louise Beveridge [Knoydart Foundation Office Manager], Lorna Schofield [Knoydart Foundation director], Iain Fleming [Knodart Ranger] and Gwen Barrell [Pier House proprietor]. Sea transportation was provided by Mark Rogers of Blue Badger Cruises, Bob Wright, Mark Woombs, Roger Trussell and the Western Isles ferry. Food was provided by Pier House and the Old Forge and the delegates were accommodated at the Knoydart Foundation’s bunkhouse, Kilchoan estate, Cara Gray’s The Gathering and Rowan Cottage. Special thanks go to Louise Slack, the nursery school teacher, Ian Robertson [Old Forge landlord] and Davie Newton for opening their own houses for guests.