The UK’s community energy movement has mushroomed to a staggering £190 million, according to a new report. Community Energy England launched their State of the Sector report in Manchester last weekend, which showed:

  • At least 30,000 people have invested in community energy groups
  • The movement has built 188 MW of renewable energy capacity
  • 222 community energy groups now exist across the country
  • In 2016, these groups alloacted £620,000 to community benefit funds.

Most of the cash raised has been through co-operatives (186 of the 222 organisations surveyed were Community Benefit Societies, a form of co-op). Almost all projects last 20 years; that so many people have invested so much shows a long-term grass-roots commitment to renewable energy.

Less than ten community energy organisations existed in 2010. The report shows the movement has bloomed due to an army of pioneers: 1700 volunteers were reported as actively supporting community groups. The movement is also supported by at least 116 full time employees.

Community groups love solar, building 101 projects to date with a combined capacity of 99MW. Wind is the next most popular with 16 projects and 20.6MW; followed by Hydro with 20 projects and 1.7MW of capacity.

Locally-owned renewables also showed a remarkable efficiency in getting projects off the ground. 66 groups reported their start up funding, which showed they spent an average of £22,500 getting projects going. If that were repeated across the whole sector then total start cost for the movement has been £5m, a remarkable figure considering it has generated £190m of renewable energy projects and tens of thousands of investments.

Community benefit funds averaged £12,000 a year across the 52 organisations who reported. Since projects last for decades, the total community benefit from the community energy movement is likely to be in the tens of millions, in addition to huge carbon savings. It’s clear the financial value of the sector goes far beyond simple cash: community benefit funds were spent on a variety of projects (see left), including fuel poverty measures, community asset purchases, education and other local environmental projects.

Contrary to popular beleif, the EIS tax break had been used only by 34% of organisations. Since EIS was withdrawn in 2015, this shows a continuing appetite for people to invest in community energy schemes. Only one organisation had used Social Investment Tax Releif (SITR), despite government assurances in 2015 that it would be available for community energy following the withdrawal of EIS.
Brighton Energy Coop is a proud member of the community energy movement. Over the last few years we’ve built renewable energy systems on industrial sheds, factories, churches, blocks of flats – even a football ground. BEC members receive a 5% interest payment on their investment; you can join BEC here.

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