Four share offers have been launched simultaneously today on Ethex to transfer solar farms into community ownership
Community Energy Together (CET) is a new collaboration between five community energy groups in England and Wales who are today launching share offers to fund the transfer of seven operational solar farms into community ownership.
The solar farms are in Shropshire, Kent, Devon, Isle of Wight and Swansea. Four local Community Benefit Societies (CBSs) launched their share offers today, with the fifth (Gower Power in Swansea) expected to follow suit soon.
The CET share offers will enable people across the UK who care about climate change to put their money to work to tackle the issue directly while earning a fair return. Investing in these solar farms supports the community energy revolution, democratising energy ownership through community-owned renewables that create benefits for everyone.
The solar farms have a collective total capacity of 36MWp, enough to power around 12,750 homes and save circa 317,000 tonnes of CO2 over their lifetimes. Some CBSs are buying more than one solar farm. (See Notes to Editor for full details.)
Bringing the portfolio of seven solar farms into community ownership will increase the capacity of community owned solar energy in England and Wales by approximately 20%. Over the projects’ lifetime it will generate a collective community benefit fund of around £20 million to support local social and environmental projects and develop new community renewable projects.
An innovative cross-collateralised finance model has been created by the current owner of the solar farm portfolio, Community Owned Renewable Energy (CORE), a partnership set up by Big Society Capital and Power to Change to oversee the transfer of solar farms into community ownership. The model reduces the cost of borrowing and spreads risk, thereby increasing the size of the community benefit pot.
Collaborating through CET, the CBSs will acquire the portfolio from CORE, completing the process of transferring it from commercial to community ownership ensuring future surpluses are safeguarded for reinvestment in their local areas.
Will Walker, Climate Action Manager, Power to Change, 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, whilst accelerating responses to the climate emergency and zero carbon transition.
Power to Change invested in CORE and provided support to the Community Benefit Societies 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, Chair, Shropshire and Telford Community Energy (STCE), 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. Whilst 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 launched on positive investment platform Ethex with a target annual return of 6%. The total fund raise target is £2.5 million. Funds raised over that amount will be used to repay debt early and contribute to an increase in community funds. Investments begin at £250.
Lisa Ashford MBE, CEO, Ethex, 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’s 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, Chief Executive of Community Energy England, said: “The simultaneous launch of these five CET share offers marks a significant milestone for community energy. Raising £2.5 million from community investors to create community benefits of c.£20 million 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.”
The five CBSs already have strong track records of delivering local social, environmental and carbon-reduction projects, from sustainable transport schemes to tackling fuel poverty. This potential will increase exponentially once the solar farms are in full community ownership.
Some examples include:
- Shropshire and Telford Community Energy funded new energy-efficient lighting and a rainwater harvesting system for a Telford community building.
- Kent Community Energy contributed £5,000 to a Sheerness project delivering food boxes to families in need during Covid.
- Yealm Community Energy (Devon) provided grant funds and support to establish a community-owned electric ferry on the Yealm Estuary.
- Wight Community Energy has been promoting the uptake of electric vehicles on the island through a new brand, Isle EV, events and social media campaigns.
- Gower Power (S. Wales) has established a local energy tariff which enables electricity from another loca solar farm to be sold to local people, in partnership with Ecotricity.
Peter Brown, Chair, Yealm Community Energy (YCE), 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.”
Shareholders will become a member of the CBS they invest in on a one vote per shareholder basis.
To find out more please visit the Community Energy Together website: https://www.communityenergytogether.co.uk
To download the Share Offer Documents and invest, please visit: https://www.ethex.org.uk/investments