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- Community energy is not just what we do, but how we do it - By Ed Mayo, Co-operatives UK
- Community energy, a magic bullet for a multitude of charitable objectives
- How smart technology is empowering rural energy projects
- “It's all still to play for" says Co-op Energy's Head of Renewables
- York Community Energy trip round the panels of Auld Reekie with Edinburgh Community Solar
- The Ramblers: Protecting the places we love to walk in a changing climate
- Why Community Energy Fortnight is so important - By Emma Bridge
- CEF17 is Powering Together!
- Community Energy Fortnight 2017 dates announced and news of a new collaboration
- The community energy revolution is evolving, and the future’s bright
- Investing in community energy schemes
- Energising faith communities: the Spirit project
- Community Energy - the way forward
- CEF16 dates announced
- The community energy revolution pushes on in face of storm clouds
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Community energy is not just what we do, but how we do it - By Ed Mayo of Co-operatives UK
We all run on community energy. The estimates are that it takes around 13 million calories for us to grow to an adult stage from birth. This doesn't come from a magic energy tree. It comes from the efforts of those around children – parents, families and communities.
Image - Bristol energy
One of my favourite renewable energy co-operatives is one that reflects the spirit of this – a 65 metre wind turbine in the village of Mesnil L’Eglise in Belgium.
The members of the co-operative are children, with shares of 100 Euros or more, that are purchased for them by parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts. This provides the share capital, alongside bank loans, for the scheme. 900 children have signed up to the project, as co-owners of their future village community energy.
Forget Brexit, let’s go Belgian and have a new generation raised on the generation of renewable energy.
The model behind this, of using community networks to raise financial capital to fund the physical kit to generate renewable energy or heat, is one that we know well here in the UK too – in the form of community shares. I am proud of the pioneering work of developers and colleagues who have supported the growth of the community shares market in the UK, with renewable energy as a leading sector.
There is a lot of jargon thrown at you if you enter the community energy field. It is not just the physics, or the arcane babble of UK energy policy in its fits and starts. It is also the alphabet soup of social ventures, social enterprise, community interest companies and legal forms. We shouldn't let this get in the way of what is the core underpinning of the sector, which is simple; we are co-operating to achieve a local renewable energy transition.
Communities can do this through different legal models and ways of developing schemes. Co-operatives are social enterprises with members. Having local people - and outside supporters - as members is a plus, as it gives meaning to community ownership.
You can form a co-op under any legal model if you build in this open membership structure. The community shares approach is typically to use the advantages of one model, the community benefit society, to take that co-operation a stage further, by raising funds from members in order to support renewable energy generation.
The beauty of the society model is that it offers a flexible way to raise funds, without locking people in unnecessarily if they want to exit over time.
The European energy co-operative network, REScoop is now running a programme across European countries to promote this as a new model of investment for the wider public. Their estimate is that around one million citizens across the EU who have made investments through one of the 3,000 energy co-ops across Europe. The UK partner is the ever-impressive Energy4All, who we are proud to work with as a federal member of Co-operatives UK.
A recent Scottish example, and one only of the many that I know will be celebrated this fortnight, is Sunart Community Renewables which raised £800,000 to install a 100 kW hydroelectric turbine on the Allt nan Cailleach burn in Strontian.
In South London, SE24 has raised capital through a successful community share issue, to put solar PV panels on the roofs of churches in Herne Hill.
This and many other co-operative ventures have been helped by a national business support programme called The Hive, run by Co-operatives UK with support from the Co-operative Bank, as a key part of its Values and Ethics Policy.
The good news is that although national policy at the UK level has shifted away from community renewables, in all other respects it is easier now, with programmes like this, to start up or grow a community owned social enterprise than it has been.
That matters. In the name of sanity, we need to organise for a future in which all energy is sustainable.
Community energy is not just a name or a label - and it is not just what we do. It is how we do it.
Ed Mayo is Secretary General of Co-operatives UK
Co-operatives Fortnight overlaps with Community Energy Fortnight, closing on the United Nations International Day of Co-operatives on Saturday 1 July 2017.