Solar energy community co-operative scheme launched

A solar energy scheme in Bristol is hoping to switch on investors by launching a community share issue.

The not-for profit community-owned Bristol Energy Co-operative is aiming to raise almost £90,000 with the launch of a share issue to realise its plans of installing solar panels on community buildings across the city.

With the support of The Co-operative Enterprise Hub, a free service at the forefront of a renaissance in the co-operative sector which assisted with rules and governance, business and financial planning and the community share issue, the scheme is calculated to generate 700,000kWh of energy and save 400 tonnes of CO2 over a 25 year lifetime.

It also aims to return up to 4 per cent per annum to investors while delivering wider social benefits including developing a local renewables infrastructure and supporting the growth of a green energy economy in the area.

The newly formed co-operative hopes to attract hundreds of members investing as little as £50, will initially concentrate on two sites, Hamilton House – a vibrant community hub for art, music, enterprise and innovation and, Knowle West Media Centre – the home of a charity in the south of the city which helps communities to get the most out of digital technologies, music, media and the arts.

Mark Corbin of Bristol Energy Co-operative, said: “When a number of community groups across the city were looking at forming energy co-operatives we pooled our skills and resource, and this is the result – an ambitious scheme that opens the benefits of green energy to all and will leave a lasting legacy for the next generation.

“The first phase will see the installation of approaching 200 solar panels on to roofs of community buildings in the Bristol area. In addition to making a return to investors, the project will deliver wider social benefits with energy cost savings supporting the work of community organisations and surplus money supporting other community groups with green energy projects in the area.”

The UK is witnessing a resurgence in community-led solutions to the delivery of business and services and The Co-operative Group, the UK’s largest member-owned organisation with 7 million members, has committed a further £6m – between 2012-14 – to The Co-operative Enterprise Hub, which has supported the creation and growth of over 700 member-owned enterprises since it launched as a pilot scheme in 2009.

Michael Fairclough, The Co-operative’s head of community and co-operative investment, said: “The co-operative business model is a robust approach to enterprise that is revitalising local communities and helping to address some of the unprecedented challenges facing society, environment and the economy.

“We believe that our support and encouragement for member-owned renewable energy projects can create sustainable community co-operatives that can control, generate and benefit from their own renewable energy.

“In addition, community-led projects such as this can contribute to a step-change in people’s thinking about energy and, by inspiring others to take action, be a catalyst for a clean energy revolution across the UK.”

The share offer closes on 18 May 2012.

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