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Green vision after Sark's electricity crisis

Green vision after Sark's electricity crisis

Friday 31 July 2020

Green vision after Sark's electricity crisis

The 'ruler' of Sark has revealed a bold vision to help solve his island's long-standing electricity crisis by turning the grid into "an electricity trading platform" with the co-operation of SEL's new owner.

The Little Green Energy Company has this week completed an installation of solar technology on the La Seigneurie, the historic house and gardens where the island's Seigneur resides.

"It is the responsible thing to do, I am reducing my carbon footprint," said Sark's Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont. 

"I have been looking at it for years, but it was around two years ago that I started looking seriously for a solution."

2018 was a troublesome year for Sark, with the previous owner of Sark Electricity at loggerheads with Chief Pleas - the island's government - and an independent commissioner, who had been tasked with controlling electricity prices. 

sark electricity

Pictured: The dispute came to a head when the Price Commissioner sought to cap SEL's prices, from August 2018, at 52p per kWh compared to David Gordon Brown's rate of 66p per unit. 

That led to a messy row culminating in a threat to turn off the power at the end of November that year, only for a last-minute deal to be brokered between Mr Gordon-Brown and Chief Pleas.

However, those issues re-emerged last year when legal fees were cited as the main reason behind a proposed price rise to 85p per unit. Since Mr Gordon-Brown's death earlier this year, a new owner was found for SEL, who announced immediate investment but also encountered some banking issues linked to a spent conviction. 

Major Beaumont said the previous owners of SEL had made renewable energy sources unworkable - and that the new owner was more inclined to "discuss and collaborate".

"The previous owner's policy was you do it our way, or no way. You would be required, if you wanted to stay connected, to sell all of the power you generate to him at a discounted rate and then buy your power back from him at the standard rate."

Major Beaumont said he had spoken to SEL Owner Alan Jackson on Thursday morning to discuss some of his ideas for changing the way electricity is generated in Sark.

"The Gordon-Browns' policy was not about renewable energy and the government doesn’t have a policy about renewable energy," he said. 

sark electricity Alan Jackson

Pictured: Alan Jackson bought Sark Electricity in March this year. 

"I have regularly said we should get rid of fossil fuels and this is my first step towards doing that, but for now it is only my house.

"[My vision] is that we are all inter-connected and the grid becomes an electricity trading platform. If you have a house facing in the right direction, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be a producer of electricity, and if you are facing the wrong direction, you can still put up a small windmill."

"It makes a difference when there is a willingness from the provider to discuss and collaborate with the consumers, who might be producers as well - it is absolutely essential."

For now, because of some technical difficulties, La Seigneurie is not connected to the grid, so the Seigneur has a back-up generator, battery technology and a converter to help store energy. 

The Little Green Energy Company started the installation late last year, however due to corona virus enforced delays, the project was completed this week.

"La Seigneurie is now generating all its power through solar and batteries with a back-up generator," said Director Jamie Clark. 

Guernsey Electricity solar panels

Pictured: The company has completed several significant installations recently, including at Guernsey Electricity, pictured above, Guernsey Post and Moore's Hotel. 

"In the last few years, more people are thinking about where electricity comes from and looking at this technology as a solution," said Mr Clark.

"The introduction of battery technology means you can generate through the day, even when at work, for use during the night time.

"The technology has moved on and we can now offer 25 year product warranties on the systems so you as a customer are more guaranteed to make a profit."

Pictured top: Major Christopher Beaumont, the Seigneur of Sark.

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