Marks and Spencer (M&S) Energy Society was launched in June 2016, with funds raised to complete solar PV sites on eight of its stores by September 2016. The plan for the installations was two years in the making and was only possible because of the collaborative working relationship fostered between Energy4All, Joju Solar and M&S Energy Society.
The project engaged a previously untapped audience for community energy in the retailer consumer. Through instore, online and mailings direct to customers, M&S used their brand to raise awareness of community energy and encourage investment. With help from a trusted community energy group in Energy4All and a committed project manager in Joju Solar, the project managed to raise all the required funds and installed onto eight M&S stores.
The project attracted 326 members, who invested a total of £1.15m. Whilst the project is not the largest and the community fund has not yet begun to make money available, the initiative has been beneficial in other ways. The project has resulted in an interest for more community energy from other retailers and commercial landlords. It has proved an invaluable case study to engage the corporate sector in community energy. It has been presented at the BRE Solar PV Summit and to members of the UK Green Build Council. Learnings from the project are also being used to develop a Community Asset Bank with Forum for the Future. Details of the project have been shared openly to promote the benefits of a collaboration of this type. Endorsing a community energy project with a national brand was an effective way to engage a wider population of the UK in the concept of community energy. This is a pioneering relationship between Joju Solar and Energy4All, with a High Street retailer and their 32 million customers.
Lord Bourne, Minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said, “This new initiative… is an excellent example of private enterprise working with its customers to produce clean, green energy and support local community groups. I would urge other companies to follow suit” (June 2016).
Collaborative working between Energy4All and Joju Solar, with brand endorsement from M&S has helped raise further support and awareness for community energy and what is possible for the future of the sector. This endorsement will continue, formally, for the next 20 years. Once the community benefit fund is supporting further projects, these will be actively promoted to build further awareness and support.