The good people at Burneside Community Energy (BCE) hosted the only Cumbrian stop on a UK tour of film makers documenting low carbon initiatives in a big, blue zero-carbon bus.

The government-funded Zero Carbon Tour stopped by to feature the successful partnership between BCE and James Cropper PLC, which has seen a range of solar PV arrays installed at the firm’s plant. BCE held an event showcasing their success and welcomed representatives from multiple organisations involved in Cumbria’s sustainability efforts. 

The Zero Carbon Tour is a project from Planet Mark, a team of sustainability certifiers. They are embarking on a huge journey across the UK. Everywhere they stop, they are filming local climate action by businesses and communities. 

Their tour ends in Glasgow in November just in time for the UN climate summit, COP26, the world’s largest gathering of world leaders to discuss their plans to avert the climate emergency.

Jo Little from Planet Mark said: ‘We’re capturing carbon stories. We’re finding out what businesses are doing to spread that knowledge and awareness and encourage other businesses to do the right thing as well. 

‘We’re going to take these carbon stories to COP26 to allow the government to understand what people are doing up and down the country. We’ve seen some fantastic initiatives in Burneside today. There’s such a strong spirit of community here and we’ve been deeply impressed by what they’ve shown us.’ 

BCE was set up in 2015, raising funds through a community share offer to install solar PV on the roof of James Cropper PLC, a large paper producer in the town. Since then, it has installed 998.5kW of solar panels on the factory, paid for further solar panels for the local primary school and is expected to raise over £50,000 for community projects over the coming years. Not bad at all!

Director of BCE Phil Davies said: ‘We’re incredibly proud to have the bus come to us and recognise what we’ve achieved here in Burneside. What we’ve got that is really special is a partnership between a big industry leader in James Cropper PLC and the people who live in the village, who got together to see what we could do about the problems of carbon and climate. Our solar panels save around 330 tonnes of carbon a year, and we hope that we could be a template to inspire similar villages and towns throughout Cumbria to do the same.’ 

As well as providing a service and assets for the village, the project was also a smart move for James Cropper PLC. Their utilities manager Richard Graham said: ‘It’s a win-win situation. We had a lot of empty roofs, and the renewables technology was becoming more economic. We could install solar PV with no negative impact to the business and indeed we now use the power generated from the panels. James Cropper wants to show other businesses that it can be done and that it’s really a no brainer.’ 

The film makers from the bus interviewed and filmed the team from BCE as well as representatives from James Cropper PLC, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP) and our CEO Karen Mitchell. They then joined us in the village’s hall to find out more through a series of short presentations about the project and how it fits into the wider efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the county. 

Karen said: ‘It’s great that Planet Mark have stopped in Cumbria as we have a particularly ambitious target to reach net-zero carbon by 2037. The actions of businesses are critical to achieving this so we can be proud that we have a Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership of 80 organisations working together towards this goal. We face particular challenges in this county due to being highly rural with many isolated communities along with the effects of extreme weather events. It’s good to know that these experiences will be making their way to Glasgow alongside more urban concerns.’ 

Ian Wheeler from Cumbria LEP said: ‘We want to see Cumbria lead the way on clean energy and we believe this is possible due to our industrial heritage and our natural resources. We’re seeing a brilliant example of a business thriving through generating renewable power with their community in James Cropper PLC. We’d love to see this success replicated across the county.’ 

The event was supported by the National Lottery Community Fund as part of the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership’s ambitious emission reduction programme.  

Planet Mark’s Zero Carbon Tour is being supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The bus’s next stops will be in the North East and Scotland before it finally arrives at COP26 in November.