Community energy generating interest

One of the great joys of working in PR is when you open the door into a whole new world full of people passionate about a particular niche subject. For me over the last few weeks it has been community energy.

I have always had great respect for co-operatives and the ideal of people working together and sharing the benefits, but also putting something back into the wider community. However, until we started working with Emily Mackay of Microgenius, I hadn’t realised the extent that community energy is taking off in the UK.

Emily explains that that there are at least 59 energy co-operatives already registered across the UK with many more bubbling under the surface. These groups have formed to install sustainable energy microgeneration using hydro, wind, solar, anaerobic digestion, biomass technologies. Selling community shares to ordinary people to fund their sustainable energy projects.

Microgenius is a not-for-profit website that aims to link people like me – who like the idea of their savings doing something greater than just earning interest – with these projects, to help them get off the ground and start generating value. An estimated £25m that has been invested so far in community shares in renewable energy.

Microgenius’ first project is Sheffield Renewables. The share offer is to fund the development of a hydro-electric generator at Jordan dam on the River Don. The dam will produce enough electricity per year to power 80 homes. The share offer aims to raise £200k, and will pay up to 3% interest to investors. The minimum stake is £250 and the maximum is £20,000.

Community energy projects make money from the feed-in tariff (FIT) or the newer renewable heat incentive (RHI) subsidies, and power purchase agreements (PPAs). The subsidy incentives have been designed to accelerate investment in renewable energy technologies.

The tariff the project gets is fixed at the time of installation, so you don’t need to be concerned about what then happens to the tariffs. Interestingly the government has already announced a new community-level tariff, to come into force later in the year if approved: it shows how seriously community energy is being taken.

Microgenius has gained the support of big players such as ethical energy provider Co-operative Energy, Co-operatives UK and renewable electricity supplier, Good Energy.
According to Co-operatives UK, over 30 green power co-operatives have started since 2008, achieving a community owed generation capacity of 19.6MW. Not only do they generate renewable energy, strengthen communities and increase environmental awareness, they also return a benefit to their members.

I felt so inspired by this that I immediately swapped my gas and electricity to Co-operative Energy ‘cos sometimes you have to ‘put your money where your mouth is’.

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