EcoBro are a group based around Penrhyndeudraeth, North Wales working towards a sustainable future for the communities in the area. The EcoBro Energy Project is a great example of how a project specifically designed to develop innovative and local ideas can be a great success.
Having held plenty of one-off events over the years, they were looking to run a longer term project. Two of the younger members of the group were looking to develop a new type of household electricity monitor and feedback system, and so with this in mind the group decided that a project looking at saving energy within the household would allow them to test and develop their new product further. This fledging business was called ‘Megni’. www.megni.co.uk
The group secured funding for a part time coordinator and went on to recruit 20 households to take part. Designed as a participant led project - meaning that all decisions on what the project aims to achieve, and the methods by which it will be done - is decided on by the participants themselves.
In a relatively short period of time the group designed an energy audit to measure the energy consumption of each household taking into account electricity, heating and transport. This tool combined with the energy monitors gave the group an overview of their personal energy use and highlighted areas where they could make savings. This has already led to changes in the group’s energy use, but it was only the beginning...
The work inspired a sub-group of the households to commit to an ‘energy challenge’ where they will sign up for energy reducing targets over a period of 12 months. One member (who is an architect by profession) is working on developing a set of energy saving guidelines which takes into account the diverse household types involved. Other sub-groups are working on two further projects; the first is the ‘Eryri Energy Trail’ which will be held during the Sustainability Week in 2013. It will see local households and businesses in Eryri who have undertaken measures to improve energy efficiency open their doors to the community to demonstrate what can be successfully and practically achieved in the area. The second is an action learning project to develop a community transport strategy in North Meirionydd and Western Dwyfor.
Through the local Pathfinder Officer project the group made contact with another organisation called ‘Cywaith’, and together they successfully undertook a joint project called ‘Ynni Llyn’ (Llyn Energy) on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales. www.ynnillyn.org Using the tools and techniques developed during the original project, Ynni Llyn was able to highlight critical issues regarding the local householders energy consumption, and enabled the community to begin work to address these issues with more developments expected soon. This clearly demonstrated that the groups methods are transferable between communities and can be successfully replicated, and will be the basis for the group to support other communities in the near future.
And what about ‘Megni’? They recently launched their electricity monitoring system as a DIY kit and is currently being sold successfully across the world. The way in which this one small project has grown and inspired so many other successful local projects further demonstrates what can be achieved by listening to your own community and collaboratively acting to make these ideas a reality.