Five UK community energy groups have joined forces under the name Community Energy Together (CET) to launch share offers, aiming to fund the transfer of seven operational solar farms into community ownership.
These solar farms are located in Shropshire, Kent, Devon, the Isle of Wight, and Swansea. Four of the Community Benefit Societies (CBSs) have already initiated their share offers, while the fifth one (Gower Power in Swansea) is expected to follow suit shortly.
CET emphasized that these share offers provide an opportunity for individuals across the UK who are concerned about climate change to invest their money in a way that directly addresses the issue, all while earning a fair return.
By investing in these solar farms, people can actively support the community energy revolution, which aims to democratize energy ownership through community-owned renewable projects that bring benefits to all.
Combined, the solar farms have a total capacity of 36MWp, sufficient to power approximately 12,750 homes and reduce around 317,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions throughout their lifetimes.
The acquisition of this portfolio of seven solar farms will significantly boost the capacity of community-owned solar energy in England and Wales, increasing it by approximately 20%.
Over the lifespan of the projects, a collective community benefit fund of about £20 million is projected to be generated, which will be utilized to support local social and environmental initiatives, as well as the development of new community renewable projects.
The transfer of ownership from the current owner, Community Owned Renewable Energy (CORE), is facilitated through a cross-collateralized finance model.
CORE, a partnership established by Big Society Capital and Power to Change, has devised this model to reduce borrowing costs and spread risk, ultimately leading to an expansion of the community benefit fund.
Working together through CET, the Community Benefit Societies will acquire the solar farm portfolio from CORE, ensuring that future surpluses are safeguarded for reinvestment in their respective local areas.
Will Walker, Power to Change climate action manager, said “Our evidence shows that when assets and services are owned by the people they serve, they offer better value for the public, keep resources and jobs local, create community wealth and build economically resilient places.”
“Community businesses are part of the solution to making better places to live and work, while accelerating responses to the climate emergency and zero carbon transition.”
“Power to Change invested in CORE and provided support to the CBSs to ensure they are well equipped to develop these solar farms into successful zero carbon assets that will deliver for local people and nature for many years to come.”
Robert Saunders, Shropshire and Telford Community Energy (STCE) chair, said “Community owned energy gives individuals the vital opportunity to play a part in the clean energy transition beyond just being a consumer. STCE is in great company with four like-minded Community Benefit Societies.
“While owning our individual solar farms, we are committed to working together and supporting each other so that we can benefit from each other’s expertise, experience and share knowledge and lessons along the way.”
The share offers are being introduced through the Ethex positive investment platform, with a projected annual return of 6%.
The primary objective is to raise a total of £2.5 million. Any funds raised beyond this target will be utilized to repay debt ahead of schedule and further augment the community funds. Individuals can start investing with a minimum amount of £250.
Lisa Ashford, Ethex chief executive, said “This is a great opportunity to invest in local solar power at a national scale to support a cleaner, greener, fairer future.”
“Investors can own a stake in a solar farm near them, or diversify their portfolio by investing in several across England and Wales.”
“What is more, every £1 invested in a Community Energy Together solar project will generate £8 of community impact value, while supporting much-needed locally generated and owned renewable energy.”
Emma Bridge, Community Energy England chief executive, said “The simultaneous launch of these CET share offers marks a significant milestone for community energy. Raising £2.5m from community investors to create community benefits of around £20m demonstrates the immense potential of the sector.”
“Local ownership of our green energy infrastructure is vital for engaging people with the changes we must make to get to net zero.”
Peter Brown, Yealm Community Energy chair, said “As a community enterprise with a strong track record in tackling climate change and supporting local carbon reducing and environmental initiatives we are very pleased to be offering local people and those further afield the chance to invest in YCE and enable us to take ownership of three solar farms in South Devon.”
“Belonging to Community Energy Together is like being part of a larger, supportive family, working together to get the best out of all our solar farms and maximising the surpluses we can all devote to the local green economy.”
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