Empower is the brainchild of the Stroud based NexGen Group, the umbrella organisation of four companies: green electricity supplier Ecotricity, wind farm owner and operator Next Generation, wind monitor supplier Western Windpower and Enercon UK, British arm of the German wind turbine manufacturer. The £20,000 campaign starts in the Stroud district where all 40,000 homes are being leafleted, backed by newspaper and radio advertising. Residents are asked to vote YES or NO to new locally built renewable sources on a reply card which will be passed to local authority planners.
NexGen gives a commitment to build new local wind turbines in response to demand. It will be able to supply "ecotricity" as wind capacity becomes available, and is seeking planning consent to install four further turbines alongside the group's existing Lynch Knoll wind turbine near Stroud. The campaign focuses solely on wind. "It is the technology with the power to deliver. It has the resource potential. It has the flexibility of siting," explains Dale Vince of NexGen. "What is exciting is the direct link to new building," he says, adding: "Making people's voices heard is the way to take on the planning system."
One of the planned four new 600 kW turbines is to be built without government subsidy, making it the first wind turbine to be developed in the UK for the domestic market without support. NexGen claims it can supply ecotricity at no extra cost than power from the local conventional electricity supplier. It explains it is able to do this because its power is sourced locally and sold to local users, avoiding costs of using the high voltage transmission network.
Empower marks Ecotricity's first step into supplying the domestic sector. "What we are building here is a model that we can replicate elsewhere," says Vince. From Stroud, the group intends to take the campaign to other areas of Gloucestershire until renewables meet 10% of the county's energy needs. Its target date is 2005 -- five years earlier than the government's national 10% target. Eventually, the group plans to phase in the campaign across the UK.