We’re incredibly pleased to announce that £165,000 is forecast to be available for the Community Benefit Fund in Graig Fatha’s first year of operation.
The Welsh Government and the Community Benefit Fund
Construction of Graig Fatha wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Welsh Government. It provided a grant of £1.1million to facilitate the construction of Graig Fatha and support Wales’ wider goal of having 1GW of energy production in local hands.
Announcing the grant last year, Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “It is vitally important that Welsh people benefit from renewable energy projects in Wales. Fuel poverty is affecting households across Wales. We are delighted that the Welsh Government’s support for Graig Fatha will deliver help for thousands of homes in fuel poverty in south Wales as well as proving that new ways of owning renewable energy projects is possible.”
What would otherwise be bill savings for the share of the wind farm supported by the Welsh Government, will be used to help alleviate fuel poverty in the region. When the grant was awarded, it was estimated that on average £75,000 per year would be generated by the wind farm. Due to the record high electricity prices, we have been able to secure a price for Graig Fatha’s first year of generation which reflects that trend. Not only does this mean larger savings for our members, but more funds available for the Community Benefit Fund.
The higher level of savings in the first year of Graig Fatha’s operation means around £165,000 is now estimated to be available for fuel poverty action.
Income received by the Community Benefit Fund will primarily focus on addressing fuel poverty in the local area around the wind farm, alongside community-directed environmental projects. Graig Fatha’s ownership co-op will work with local partners to deliver funds to ensure the best needs of the community are met and understood. The two partners the co-op plans to work with are Interlink RCT and the Fuel Bank Foundation.
Interlink RCT is one of our local delivery partners who receive funding from the community benefit fund to make a positive impact on the life of people who live and work in Rhondda Cynon Taf. One strand of their work supports people on early intervention and prevention to improve health, social care and wellbeing. Fuel poverty is a multifaceted issue without a root cause so Interlink’s holistic approach and integration with the community is a key strand to identifying individuals at risk of financial hardship and preventing them entering into fuel poverty.
Fuel Bank Foundation
The Fuel Bank Foundation is our other local delivery partner who addresses the other end of the fuel poverty cycle, helping those who find themselves in crisis despite the best endeavours of other programs. They will receive funding from the CBF to provide support for people living in and around the Coedely area who are in fuel crisis.
The Fuel Bank Foundation provides top up vouchers for two weeks worth of fuel for people who are in crisis.
The scheme helps prevent self-disconnection – when someone cannot afford to top up their meter and so when the money runs out, the lights go off. It ensures people are not left without energy for the basics like cooking and heating. The number of people seeking help in Wales has risen significantly in the last few years. More and more families face the very real decisions over ‘heating or eating’. This can lead to a series of health issues if they are forced to self-disconnect.
We’re humbled that Graig Fatha’s Community Benefit Fund can help this organisation in some small way.
The energy crisis
As energy prices continue to soar, the most vulnerable are paying the price. When the new price cap is adopted in April, it is predicted to push 6.3 million people into fuel stress – those spending at least 10% of income on energy bills. The number of households under “fuel stress” is expected to leap to 27% in April from about 9% now. That’s almost a third of the population having to make impossible decisions whether to ‘heat or eat’.
We know the Community Benefit Fund isn’t a solution to fuel poverty but we’re grateful that the increased funding, driven by higher electricity prices, means more fuel poverty funding is available when it’s needed the most.
As a longer term solution, we urgently need to green our grid, and move towards a system of energy generation which is localised, consumer owned and, of course, 100% renewable. If you can generate your own electricity, you’re largely shielded from volatile international gas markets.