A model for community owned renewable energy.
This project seeks to provide affordable, sustainable and low carbon energy by using both council owned and community-based buildings for solar installations. The scheme is primarily funded through a community share scheme, with secondary support through grants and loans provided by the local council. The first phase has been focussed on installing solar energy on local school buildings and making energy efficiency improvements. Setup as a social enterprise; the directors are volunteers, representing the community shareholders. Profits are used to repay investors and to support local development projects. A series of partnerships support the organisation, including having a volunteer director from the local authority and appointed installers. Current volunteer directors have key experience in sustainable energy infrastructure to steer the project accordingly. Phase two of the project has won a grant to investigate how to engage low income houses in sustainable energy production, as this is where it could have considerable community improvement impacts.
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Resources needed

£20K government grant from Urban Community Energy Fund (UCEF)
£15K Pioneer share investment from the Council
£85K in further ordinary shares from the Council
£250K loan from the Council which has been refinanced through community shares

Evidence of success

As at June 2019, The Society currently has 77 members, including the Council, which has £100,000 in shares. Being a cooperative, each Member has one vote at the AGM, irrespective of shareholding.
Since installation in 2016, 220kW of solar PV across five schools and one community centre. The OCP solar PV systems have saved the schools and community centre around £7,500 on their electricity bills, and already have reduced carbon emissions by around 180 tonnes of CO2 saved.

Difficulties encountered

Unfamiliarity by Oldham residents with the concept of community energy – initial suspicion of scheme.
Trying to raise community finance difficult in a relatively deprived borough
Unfamiliarity of Council officers with community energy – poor relationship with the community energy group

Potential for learning or transfer

Council/Municipality support has been the key to the success of setting up OCP. A similar level of support from municipality/regional/national government would be anticipated for the scheme to be transferred. Availability of financial support and policies to support such schemes would be essential, but also the ability to access public buildings to host the panels. Partnership working would be required at the local level.
Project
Main institution
Oldham Council
Location
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom
Start Date
January 2016
End Date
Ongoing

Contact

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