South Denbighshire Community Partnership installs solar Panels; Pictured is Margaret Sutherland, Chief Officer. Picture Mandy Jones

Community campaigners determined to make their town the greenest in Wales are celebrating a National Lottery grant worth almost £10,000 to help tackle climate change.

South Denbighshire Community Partnership (SDCP) is one of 30 organisations in Wales to receive a grant from The National Lottery Climate Action Fund worth £9,655 to boost efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and protect the environment.

The funding has been invested in 24 solar panels at the Canolfan Ni Centre in Corwen, where the organisation is based, which will collectively offset an estimated 1.7tonnes of CO2 every year.

In addition to providing up to 7.68 kilowatts of electricity every year for the social enterprise organisation – making estimated savings of some £800 – the excess power it generates will be fed directly into the Corwen Energy Local (CEL) scheme, benefitting local householders throughout the town by reducing energy bills and tackling fuel poverty.

Margaret Sutherland, Chief Officer of the SDCP, said: “We’re proud to be involved in The National Lottery Community Fund’s Climate Top Up initiative which has enabled us to install 24 solar panels on our community centre.

“The money from The National Lottery Community Fund is enabling us to reduce our carbon emissions and in turn make a positive contribution to tackling climate change. It’s also good business sense as we’ll save on energy bills and the estimated 20% surplus will go into the Corwen Energy Local supply.

“The solar panels will bring down our overheads. We rely on external funding and do not get any financial local authority or government support so making savings wherever we can is very important.

“Not only does it benefit us and the environment it also benefits our local community through the additional energy supply. Obviously, without this lottery money we wouldn’t have been able to do that.

“These solar panels are all part of SDCP’s commitment to limit our environmental impact.”

The Climate Action Fund has been launched to support existing National Lottery projects to take action in their communities to tackle the climate emergency.

Last year, The National Lottery Community Fund announced that it planned to commit £100 million over 10 years to support communities across the UK to tackle climate change.

SDCP has successfully applied for more than £450,000 in funding over the past few years to help tackle social isolation and rural poverty – £350,000 of which has come from Big Lottery Wales.

The award-winning social enterprise business has been at the forefront of a host of environmental projects benefitting the local community and tackling rural isolation.

It was the first in North Wales to launch a community car share scheme as part of an ambitious £100,000 rural transport programme which enables members of the community who are without transport to hire its new all-electric Nissan Leaf.

The car is part of a three-vehicle fleet owned by the partnership which also includes a 16-seater community minibus and Toyota Rav 4 hybrid SUV, used for dial-a-ride and meals on wheels services.

Recently, the SDCP announced the launch of the Corwen Energy Local (CEL) cooperative project, scheduled to go live in April, which aims to sign up 60 households to switch to low-cost, eco-friendly power – most of which will be produced by Corwen Hydro – a community hydro-electric power plant fed by the Pen y Pigyn reservoir.

Members of the scheme will stand to save up to £300 a year from their electricity bills as well as help local residents blighted by fuel poverty.

A special fund will also be created from some of the profits of the scheme which could potentially distribute up to £2,000 to local community projects. 

“Climate change and its impact are becoming ever more evident and higher on the agenda and it’s important that everybody does their bit,” said Margaret.

“The SDCP is delighted that, thanks to national lottery players, this work is possible.

“We’ve had lots of people already showing an interest in the CEL and it is starting conversations in the local community. This is another boost for the project and we are absolutely delighted. Not only will the solar energy meet our own electricity needs and save us money, we will have this excess which we can put back into the CLE cooperative.”

SDCP employs seven staff and has 33 volunteers. It provides services for more than 500 service users who in the past 12 months alone attended 6,000 events or activities.

“Essentially, the partnership’s purpose is to tackle rural isolation, rural poverty and improve access to services,” said Margaret.

“We do that in a number of ways such as providing social clubs for the elderly. We also deliver services from our community centre such as Citizen’s Advice, MIND and the Nat West Community Bank.”

As part of the funding, SDCP received support from Renew Wales and Sustainable Communities Wales to identify what climate change action they should take and what positive impact this could have as part of the application process.

Sustainable Communities Wales carried out a full assessment of SDCP’s centre and provided a list of potential improvements to the building to further reduce its impact on the environment.

“We are hoping to invest some of the savings made from the solar panels into energy saving measures in the centre,” added Margaret.

“This is all part of SDCP’s ethos and we are hopeful that in time it will have a positive effect on our surrounding communities and will inspire them to go and look at ways they can impact their own impact on our climate.”