The growing appetite of small UK investors to put their money into local volunteer-led local energy co-operatives was demonstrated again today, as one of the longest running of Britain’s 400 power co-ops celebrated success in its latest fundraising drive.

Brighton Energy, in which the current writer invests, announced it has raised its target £700,000 of new bonds within one month.    The debt issuance is believed to be among the largest ever completed by a UK energy co-operative.

Over 100 small investors contributed to Brighton Energy’s bond issuance, chair Will Cottrell told the benefit society’s members this morning.   Most are locals or from south east England, with others distributed across the UK.

With around 700kWp in the co-op’s pipeline, the latest bond issuance amounts to one pound for every unbuilt kilowatt of potential.

The cash will go towards a pipeline of solar PV projects on community roofs.   Work on Cardinal Newman School, a comprehensive in Hove, begins next week and will last over the summer holidays.

Early September will see a 360kWp system installed on roofs at Newhaven Port.  Array erection atop Shoreham Port’s facilities will round off the co-op’s latest round.

Thanking investors, BE chair Will Cottrell – centre in image – added: “ With more than 700kWp of new solar now in progress, it just shows what we can do when we act together”.

Most co-ops operate a business model whereby they raise money in stakes sometimes as small as £50 laid by private investors including locals. The funds go to instal solar- or wind-power equipment, whose output the co-ops sell, as legally established entities, to community organisations such as schools, and at a discount guaranteed over years to the host community enterprise.

On top of dividends paid to members, many co-ops devote a chunk of trading profits back into the community, either funding drop-in clinics advising on beating fuel poverty, supporting community groups, or giving cash to renovating facilities such as village halls.

Recent innovations in funding the sector have include operators such as Ripple Energy. This aggregrates small investors’ cash, allowing them to invest in multiple solar or wind projects across the nation, and at the same time.

“Roof-leasing” is the sole business model currently open for co-ops to raise revenues.  Direct sales to of their power to investors or local communities is prohibited under Ofgem’s licencing of suppliers.   Over half of all MPs now support reform having signed up to the principle of local sale of locally generated power, in response to campaigners at Power to People.

Interest declared: This writer invests in several UK volunteer-led energy co-ops, including in Brighton Energy.


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