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Funding a social enterprise to manage and maintain hydro energy generation from rivers within Neath, Rhondda and Cynon valleys.

A few weeks ago I received a newsletter through the door from Vattenfall, who are carrying out the Wind Energy Project at the top of the valley. A stipulation of the Wind Farm project is a 1.8 million pound investment for the next 20 years in Neath, Rhondda and Cynon Valleys.

The newsletter asked for ideas on what the community fund could be spent on, their website has some interesting propositions, but very few have an overall benefit for all residents. So it got me thinking about how we could get any investment working harder.

I’ve submitted the following response to the online form for the Pen y Cymoedd project website.

Why would you do this?

Generating electricity from rivers would ensure that the community fund is truly invested in the future of Neath, Rhondda and Cynon Valleys. Electricity generated would be sold and reinvested within the social enterprise to initially fund the running of the company. Creating jobs for the area and in turn boost the local economy.

I imagine larger profits would take a number of years, but eventually with these additional profits from the social enterprise. They would be pooled into a charitable trust fund for Neath, Rhondda and Cynon valleys. Like most trusts, an annual application process could be managed by an independent board to fund community projects for the area. Whilst maintaining jobs and improvements for the local economy.

Do you have ideas about how it could be done?

I’d begin by gathering a group of interested parties, given the nature of the project I imagine this would include members of the community, Vattenfall, Dwr Cymru, Natural Resources Wales and Rhondda Cynon Taff Council. Members of this group will form a voluntary board for the social enterprise.

If an investment was offered for the project then, Welsh Government should be approached to supply match-funding project. I imagine their SMARTCymru programme would be a good place to start. This would allow research to be carried out in the first year covering the feasibility and requirements of such a venture.

From this a business plan would be put forward for further investment.
There are already similar projects operating in Wales, although on a smaller scale that have show success in this area, and who knows it might just be the beginning of HydroCymru, much like Scottish Hydro. All at the heart of Neath, Rhondda and Cynon Valleys.

You can view the submissions and rate it here (Not really sure what the rating is for its pretty vague)

I mentioned this to Gail Reed (manager at YMCA Hirwaun) re a possibility of application for funding (either there or at other RCT youth clubs affected by funding cuts). She made reference to Vattenfall. I may link here to this.

RCT has cut the budget from 2.3m to 1.2m and as such jobs have gone and are going and clubs are due to close (projected no 5). This while there are anti-social issues NOW before the new school opens where some of the clubs are due to use it for after school activities. These issues will, as far as is known, worsen if 150 kids are made to use the new school.

Ergo any funding which can be directed to clubs etc is good for keeping kids off the streets and nicely occupied as well as being seen as an investment ion their future, education and well-being.

Any funding to help the community should be welcomed, my concern is that 1.8 million although it sounds a large sum. Between Neath, Rhondda and Cynon Valleys it would soon disappear within 12 months.

There are a large amount of projects on the Vattenfall site that groups have submitted, with requests for Equipment, Facilities etc. and also a large amount in Arts and Crafts, which I must admit I would normally support, being employed within the creative sector.

However from the experience Wales has had of the much larger pot of European Objective One money; that came to this area in one hand and disappeared out of the other. Any money should be invested wisely. Invested in projects that have longevity, projects that will create jobs, profits and an overall enhancement to the community.

I'm not 100% what I've suggested will do this, but I'd love to see more ideas submitted with the idea of an overall economic benefit than one off items that have limited lifespans.

Plus, if successful then profits from a Social Enterprise would get injected back into the community for items to benefit groups.

Lets just get the infrastructure in place first.