Worried about Brexit? Community energy could be the answer.
Have you checked your savings and investment portfolio lately? If not, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Many plans have already lost significant value since the referendum last week, and if some commentators are to be believed, the trend could continue for some time.
However, a new local council-backed scheme could provide a safer haven for funds potentially at risk from stock market and interest rate volatility.
Oldham Community Power Ltd, a Community Benefit Society (co-operative) set up by local environmental enthusiasts including Bill Edwards of Saddleworth Community Hydro (Saddleworth’s own award-winning community energy scheme) and backed by Oldham Council, has launched a community share offer which aims to raise funds to install solar panels on the roofs of a number of schools and community centres across the borough.
Investor members will receive up to a 4% return over 20 years, with capital returned at the end of that period.
The value of the scheme comes from the sale of the electricity generated by the solar panels to the building occupiers.
Even at a good discount on market electricity prices, which saves the schools and community groups money on their bills, the income from electricity sales plus income from the national Feed In Tariff (which is guaranteed by the government over 20 years) means that the scheme can offer up to 4% return to community investors.
The UK is largely dependent on imports for its energy supplies, and the falling pound plus any future import tariffs means that energy prices could rise significantly as a result of Brexit.
Although bad for consumers, this is good news for community energy projects. They will see revenue streams boosted and be able to save their customers even more on their bills.
Unlike commercial energy companies, the value generated by community energy projects stays local, with local people securing ownership through community shares, local buildings saving on bills, and any surplus becoming available for local schemes through a ‘community benefit fund’.
Oldham Community Power aims to raise up to £650,000. Minimum investment is £100 and maximum is £100,000. Their share offer closes on 12th August 2016.
Anyone interested in becoming a member investor can find out more from the Oldham Community Power website.
Andy Hunt is a director of Bury Community Hydro and Greater Manchester Community Renewables, working with a number of Greater Manchester local authorities on community energy and other low carbon programmes.
He also has experience in eco-renovation of a traditional Victorian terrace, woodland management and permaculture, and in his ‘spare’ time volunteers with North West 4x4 Response supporting the emergency services in extreme weather events.