The South West’s first ever, smart local energy system is being powered up Totnes in a bid to help residents and businesses cut their energy bills and carbon emissions.

Totnes Renewable Energy Society (TRESOC) is installing new, community-owned rooftop solar PV installations in the town, and establishing the town’s very own renewable energy marketplace - Energy Local Totnes (ELT).

The initiative has been funded by Devon County Council’s covid recovery programme to the tune of £25,000.

More than 35 households have already signed up to the ELT club, which TRESOC has set up in conjunction with Energy Local CIC, Green Energy UK (GE UK), Totnes Town Council and Transition Town Totnes (TTT).

GE UK is due to start switching people over following the launch at Totnes Guildhall at 7pm on Thursday March 23.

TRESOC’s managing director, Sally Murrall-Smith, said: "We are delighted that, through Energy Local Totnes, TRESOC can now continue to develop a more equitable, community owned and low carbon energy system.

“ELT is unique as it is the first Energy Local Club that can continue to grow. New generators can join the club at any time, balanced by new customers, and the overall impact will lead to greening the local economy.”

Not only is the ELT club designed to help communities meet their carbon and environmental objectives, it is also aimed at enabling members to have more control over their energy prices.

Local generators of renewable energy will receive a fairer price for exporting their electricity, and consumers will enjoy reduce energy bills, says TRESOC.

It is hoped the knock-on effect will encourage more investment in renewable energy projects and increase energy security.

Electricity from the 15kW solar PV (photovoltaic) panels on the Totnes Civic Hall, owned by Totnes Town Council, and Transition Town Totnes is being used to kick-off the club. This will shortly be followed by a new installation at Harrisons’ Garage and the existing PV panels at Follaton Community Centre.

The ‘Totnes Solar Roofs for Energy Local Totnes’ project funded by Devon County Council aims to develop five new community owned PV arrays, with TRESOC currently working with businesses and organisations to find appropriate sites.

Once installed these will also feed into Energy Local Totnes.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for economic recovery and skills, said: “Devon is already one of the leading areas in the UK for the community energy sector and the creation of Energy Local Totnes enhances that even further.

“I'm proud that our recovery programme, which was designed to support economic recovery following the pandemic, has helped play a part in setting this project up, particularly at a time when energy costs and the need for local renewable energy are really in the spotlight.

“This is an exciting pilot that could lead the way for others to replicate similar schemes in other areas of the county.”

TRESOC plans to launch a community share offer later in the year to finance the installations, meaning that any profits will be ploughed back into local people’s pockets and the local economy.

In 2024 the ELT club is planning an expansion to include other forms of renewable energy generation to make it possible for members to use electricity at times other than peak solar generation, which it is hoped will particularly benefit low-income households.