Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council is the custodian trustee and project partner of Energise Barnsley, a community energy society. Energise Barnsley has installed solar PV on 321 tenanted houses and 16 corporate buildings, including schools and sheltered housing. Barnsley Council has supported Energise Barnsley since its’ inception and sees it as a key part of the ‘Energy Strategy 2015 – 2025’ and specifically in tackling fuel poverty in the borough.

Energise Barnsley with Patrick Allcorn of BEIS

Strong engagement with local people has been vital for this projects’ success. Local pop-up energy shops and meetings in community centres were key for local engagement. The high level of community involvement with the project would not exist without wider local support through council meetings and MP backing. Sir Stephen Houghton, Leader of Barnsley Council strongly endorsed the ‘Barnsley Solar Bond’ and over 40% of the monies raised came from local investors.

Despite the lower than average irradiance levels in Barnsley, Energise Barnsley successfully raised £2 million of finance at a 10p FiT tariff rate. This was aided by the project having the local authority as a strong partner. The council took an innovative approach to households with prepayment meters, and the right to buy scheme, allowing them to receive a solar PV installation, which enabled the Solar License to attract Charity Bank as a long-term ethical lender to the project.

The project launch was the day the government launched the FiT consultation, which saw the FiT rate shrink dramatically. However, the project had received underwriting commitments, gone through full legal due diligence and had the support of Barnsley Council from the leader to individual councillors, so the project team was able to deliver a scheme with community benefits.

Tenants' electricity savings to date are over £60,000, due to over 1,400 megawatt hours of electricity generation which has reduced 765 tonnes of carbon emissions. Tenants with solar PV and battery storage are making savings of over 60% on their electricity bills. The community fund from the project has financed over 300 volunteer hours in Goldthorpe through street cleaning and a ‘solar for skips scheme’ to reduce fly-tipping. The fund has also financed and is working in conjunction with Age UK Barnsley, an energy tariff advice team for senior residents. A local school that had solar PV installed has also been a beneficiary of the community fund and has been able to rejuvenate its’ playground facilities. Looking into the future, Energise Barnsley have developed a 7MW battery storage standalone facility which will go live in early 2018.