A while ago we wrote an article titled Why Community Energy is a Good Investment, in which we briefly talked about the community funds groups set up and finance to the benefit of the local communities in which they operate. Now, one of our most successful member co-ops, Bristol Energy Cooperative, is fund-raising for new renewable energy projects in the Bristol and Somerset area, including the development of two 4MW+ solar farms as well as many smaller scale rooftop solar installations on community buildings.
In addition to the more apparent benefits of such a scheme, which will produce enough electricity to power over 2,100 typical British homes every year and will result in savings of over 100,000 tonnes of CO2 over the projectsâ€™ 25 year lifetime, these new solar developments will enable the creation of a significant community fund. Local organisations will be able to use this fund to pursue different kinds of social and philanthropic projects. If the current share and bond offers are successful the fund will make available Â£100,000 immediately, for which local groups will be able to make proposals. Furthermore, the solar installations are projected to contribute an additional Â£4m to the fund over their lifetime, 13% of their projected revenue. It goes without saying that this is a big deal and it harbours huge potential for effecting positive social impact. Bristol Energy Cooperative is now calling on local community groups to register their interest in the fund, so donâ€™t hesitate to contact them to find out more.
Community Funds are one of the best features of Community Renewable Energy, because they provide the resources to make a social impact at a local level and they are transparent and democratic, allowing local residents to have a say and put the profits of renewable energy to use for the common good. Here are some examples of successful projects undertaken by community energy groups using their community funds:
Supporting Bristol Energy Network (BEN): Bristol Energy Cooperative uses the community fund from its first renewable energy project, built in 2011, to support Bristol Energy Network. Bristol Energy Network is an umbrella organisation whose goal is to support the development of community energy and renewables in the Bristol area. Two of the initiatives BEN has undertaken with the fund have been using thermal imaging technology to evaluate and improve home energy efficiency, and providing energy efficiency training to locals, teaching them how to maximise energy savings and how to make improvements to their homes to that end.
Solar Energy at St. Saviourâ€™s Nursery and Infant School in Bath: Mongoose partner Bath and West Community Energy awarded St. Saviourâ€™s school a Â£10,000 grant from the BWCE community fund to install solar panels on the schoolâ€™s roof. When built, the array will supply 10kW of power, enough to cover 25% of the schoolâ€™s electricity needs, and during holidays when electricity usage is minimal or non-existing the electricity it produces will be sold for a profit.
Winter Warmer Project: Also by our partner Bath and West Community Energy, the Winter Warmer project aims to tackle issues stemming from fuel poverty among the elderly, the worst of which is the high number of vulnerable people that suffer illness and even death ever year due to insufficient heating in winter.
Energy Audits and Improvements to Energy Efficiency: Community energy group Southern Staffordshire Community Energy has used its community fund to finance energy audits for numerous buildings in its area, aimed at discovering areas where improvements could be made to make them more energy efficient. Its latest round of grants includes provisions to finance energy efficiency improvements at a local level.
For more on this topic check out our infographic “How Does a Community Fund Work?”