Community Energy England and Community Energy Wales announced the winners of the 2018 Community Energy Awards at the Arnolfini, Bristol on Friday 19 October. The awards were sponsored by Bristol City Council and Co-op Energy.

Jake Burnyeat was crowned the 2018 Community Energy Champion, due to his outstanding contribution to the advancement of the community energy sector over recent years.

Jake is the founder of Communities for Renewables CIC (CfR), one of the UK’s key community energy development and management firms, and contributor to the growth of the community energy sector in the UK. Jake’s passion and dedication to the community energy sector has enabled CfR to work with over 30 community energy enterprises and has helped to deliver over £40 million of community solar PV in 10 localities ranging from school roofs to one of the largest community-owned solar farms in the UK. These community solar projects are projected to generate over £14 million in surplus community income for local community initiatives, including tackling fuel poverty, sustainable development, education, sports and arts projects. 

In 2012 Jake Burnyeat left his job as COO of a commercial renewable energy consultancy with savings to last 6 months. Jake was frustrated by the fact that, whilst energy generation was rapidly becoming decentralised, ownership and economic benefits were not being decentralised with it. This was both a missed opportunity for energy generation to be an engine for local low carbon economic development and a factor in local opposition to renewables. Jake realised that the key barrier to communities developing their own generation was not the £millions of capital required to build a project, but the £100k’s of risk investment and people capacity required to develop a project. So, he endeavoured to set up an organisation which would help villages, towns and cities set up their community energy enterprises and develop their own generation. Communities for Renewables CIC started in a broom cupboard, with little but passion and ambition.

During his six years in the community energy sector, he has also supported numerous community energy enterprises in a range of areas, utilising a range of business models. Some of these groups include Yealm Community Energy, Plymouth Energy Community, Avalon Community Energy, Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network, Low Carbon Ladock, South Dartmoor Community Energy, and many more. He also actively supports numerous community energy groups outside of CfR in his spare time as a volunteer.

"An award for Jake and the team at CfR is long overdue. They have been pivotal to bringing so many communities' energy ambitions to life, but have to date graciously directed all the recognition and applause away from themselves. CfR were central to the team that allowed PEC to grow quickly from a local government initiative into a big thinking social enterprise; delivering unprecedented levels (6MW) of community-owned rooftop and field scale solar in just 3 years. Their track record at Gawcott, Burnham & Ferry Farm is equally as impressive and reflects not only their technical, financial and problem-solving abilities but their single-minded commitment to the community energy cause. Our sector is fortunate to have individuals like Jake and Tom, and I am now blessed to be working with them at Yealm Community Energy to bring another 5MW solar farm into local ownership." - Alistair Macpherson, Chief Exec, Plymouth Energy Community and previous Community Energy Champion.

Community Energy England and Community Energy Wales congratulate Jake on everything he has achieved to date and wishes him the best of success with future endeavours.

Ahead of the ceremony in Bristol an expert panel of judges selected winners in each of the seven categories following an open application process. Mark Billsborough, Head of Renewables and Hedging at Co-op Energy and one of the Community Energy Awards 2018 judging panel, said: “It’s been an honour to judge the Community Energy Awards 2018. I can honestly say that making the final decisions was incredibly difficult. From domestic heat loss surveys, to creating large-scale wind farms owned by the community, it’s clear that the impact of groups across England and Wales means more people are able to access the benefits of community energy and make a change for the better in our bid to become a more energy efficient society.”