Idea: Community-owned energy company delivering benefits for climate change, reduced energy usage and costs, and fund local projects
Members of the local community make an upfront investment through a community share offer, in return for repayments with an average of 3% interest and voting rights on how a community fund will be spent. For full benefit, this should be combined with the Community Fund project to ensure profits are re-invested locally.
Solar panels are installed on suitable roofs, highly preferable if the energy can be used on-site as a drop in tariffs means selling back to the grid is at a lower rate. Appropriate buildings have a secure long-term use and suitable energy demand, such as larger schools, leisure centres, office developments with a minimum roof area of 500-700m². Often the electricity is sold at a discounted rate to the building user, which could potentially be used to off-set the use of privately owned roofs.
In Chipping Barnet, there is a lack of council ownership; however, there is potential to partner with larger institutions such as Queen Elizabeth’s Girls School, Barnet Hospital, and the future use of the Police Station (such as potential Enterprise Hub). Also, there is great potential in partnering with developers of larger housing schemes as new build significantly reduces installation costs, e.g. the TfL development of High Barnet station, which proposes being a highly sustainable scheme.
The Community Energy Company could utilise existing schemes to aid its set-up and access specialist knowledge, etc., such as Repowering London.
Why it is useful:
- Secure a sustainable energy source
- Generate a community fund
- Set up as a community-owned company to lock in long-term value
- Deliver social value such as training and work experience in building and maintenance of solar panels
Who needs to be involved:
- Town Team: Lead – explore legal set up such as a Community Interest Company or Community Benefit Society
- Council: Support
- Property owners/developers: E.g. schools, TfL, hospital etc.
- Local community: Investors
- Barnet & Southgate College: Champion educational opportunities
How to get started:
- Test local interest in developing and delivering the project, as well as investing
- Test potential to partner with host buildings
- Explore grant funding potential towards pre-capital cost / setting up
- Test psychical and financial feasibility
- Funding: Seed funding through community share offer, with potential start-up grants from organisations such as The Naturesave Trust, and future rounds of the London Community Energy Fund. There are also schemes run by the Government which provide finance (grants or loans) for green projects. In the future the council may be able to contribute via any Carbon Offset Fund they sets-up (these funds provide support for carbon reduction projects, paid for by carbon offset payments)
- Site Ownership: Council owned sites, schools, hospital, future workspace etc. Requires lease and preference for nominal rental only
- Resource: Requires significant community desire for a sustainability project, and potentially an organisation to set up
Example: Repowering London
Repowering London, a not-for-profit organisation, specialises in setting up and running energy projects. These renewable energy projects are set-up as cooperatives, owned by the (citizen) investors. Part of the profits are invested in a fund which, for example, is used to improve the energy efficiency of the local housing stock and develop energy-saving initiatives.
The solar projects also serve as the means to build a resilient community – raising awareness about energy efficiency, focusing on tackling fuel poverty and providing training and employment for the local people. Projects offer internships to students, ranging from IT to Law, and work placements on the renewable energy installation. The aim is to get members of the community involved and simultaneously learn the trade.