What is Community Energy and why do we need it?


Our current energy system is changing because the old approach is no longer fit to meet the challenges of climate change, to embed energy security (clearly highlighted by conflicts such as the war in Ukraine) and to create a system that doesn’t regard high levels of fuel poverty as an inevitable consequence of normal business practice. 

We are moving away from large-scale, centralised, carbon intensive energy generation, which drains economic value away from where it’s created and loses the opportunity to create a strong connection with the local area as a result. Consumers (customers) have little influence over the source of energy or who benefits from the sale of its supply. In this model there is a less tangible connection between energy generation and energy supply and the social and environmental impact of individual patterns of energy use, until the recent high prices have forced people to think more carefully about energy use. 

We are moving towards local renewable energy projects (this is where community energy comes in). Community energy organisations are member led, are democratic with one member, one vote, and with a transparent structure of governance. Community energy enterprises offer a way of doing business that focuses on covering operational costs rather than maximising and distributing profits, this allows surplus income to be invested back into local communities, to benefit local people. Community energy projects offer local control, accountability and benefit. 

Why do we need it? Community energy offers an opportunity to challenge our assumptions about energy by encouraging us as individuals to take greater control over energy supply and get involved and engaged with energy efficiency and the process of reducing our demand on the energy system.  

By becoming a member of a community energy organisation people are enabling change within the energy system (known as the energy transition), Members share in the benefits, along with the local community, have a say in how things happen and have a sense of pride and connection with the business outcomes. 

Who is Bath and West Community Energy?

BWCE was established in 2010 and is now one of the larger community energy businesses in the country. They run 31 solar rooftop schemes across schools and community buildings, 5 solar farms and a small hydro project, generating enough annual electricity to power the equivalent of 5000 homes.  

By 2022 BWCE was generating 40% of the renewable energy capacity in Bath & North East Somerset, with over 1,000 members. Thanks to the collective efforts of their members, BWCE has raised just over £7 million pounds to develop new community renewables project. They need to raise a further £800,000 this year through their share offer to continue the installation of rooftop solar systems on an extensive pipeline of further schools awaiting the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint and save money on their fuel bill. 

Why invest in BWCE’s share offer? 

By becoming a partner in this community business, you are creating tangible benefit for yourself as well as the local community and the wider environment. You are creating a sense of collective purpose, which you don’t always get in other more traditional investments. 

Your investment does more than just support the generation of renewable electricity. BWCE’s innovative community business model focuses on maximising social and environmental benefit. 

Surplus income from projects is reinvested back into the local community and since 2015 BWCE has invested £380,000 into the BWCE Community Fund which has benefitted 101 local community groups with projects focused on reducing carbon, minimising waste, and supporting those in fuel poverty. Over the last decade BWCE has taken a leading role in innovative research pilots exploring methods to manage energy demand and better match energy use and energy supply. They are in the process of developing a home energy efficiency service and are leading on the delivery of Green Open Homes events, informal opportunities for householders to share their endeavours to create lower carbon homes.  

Investors in BWCE say –

“I see people just like me involved, my friends, neighbours, family and work colleagues.”

“I trust BWCE, I see the people delivering the projects, they are local, I see the solar panels on local schools, I feel a sense of pride.” 

“I can see tangible benefits in my local area, I feel like I’m part of something bigger, something that is creating positive change at such a crucial time.”

How do I invest?

Members invest anything from £100 upwards to a maximum of £100,000, we plan to pay our members a fair interest on their shares. Currently 5% depending on project performance. This is not a distribution of profits but is regarded by the Financial Conduct Authority as a cost of the business.

To find out more information visit www.bwce.coop/invest

Or attend their online event during Community Energy Fortnight:

Buying shares in Community Energy – an ethical investment for you, your community and the planet.  

Thursday 11th July 1-2pm 

Book here.