Yorkshire co-op celebrates 5 years, pegs power prices for poor folk, pumps £20k into credit union


Amid unprecedented doubt and turmoil for energy consumers this week, one of the UK’s biggest power co-operatives provides reassurance, and a vision of localised, surer supply of clean energy.

Solar-powered Energise Barnsley – motto ‘Sustainable energy, with Values’ –  this month celebrates five years of clean generation. It is now moving to refinance the rooftop PV arrays which provide green power at pegged prices to 321 council homes – a UK record for an energy co-op – plus sixteen schools, halls and housing blocks.

This performance has enabled best-in-Britain donations of £60,000-plus since 2016 to local self-help enterprises.

This year’s donation is £20,000 for the town’s Community First Credit Union.   As director Andy Heald notes, it will enable the low-cost lender to deliver key advice in budgeting, household bill payment, loans for home essentials to evade loan sharks, and even ATM cash for Barnsleyians without bank accounts. Hundreds stand to benefit.

Tyke titans

Four years of best-in-Britain returns of 5% to the co-op’s small, one-person, one-vote investors, fill out the picture. The returns are funded by the twenty-year Feed-in Tariff, which closed to new generators in March 2019.

The co-op first invited small investors over the summer of 2016, securing £800,000 in just three months with the Barnsley Solar Bond. It is now re-financing with the Barnsley Solar Series 2 Bond

Over 40% of early investors came from Yorkshire. Andy Heald said this week, “When we established Energise Barnsley, the rationale was to reinvest any surpluses from the projects back into the local community.

“Our community has been paying for the feed in tariff subsidies through their electricity bills, and therefore the community should benefit from any surpluses in these solar projects.

“We are so glad that Community First Credit Union fit our vision for reinvesting the surpluses from our project into those most in need in our community.

Gary Simpson, CEO of the low-cost lender, said; “This is an exciting initiative to deliver crucial, real benefits to hundreds of people in and around Barnsley. Not more mere rhetoric but tangible and immediate support for people to better manage and have access to financial services and assistance.”

In partnership with Barnsley Metropolitan Borough, the co-op is investigating battery storage and via its P2P arm, trading flexibility and power balancing services across the town’s micro-network. The co-op currently exports 800 MWh a year; higher revenues may accrue from energy trading, volunteers believe.

Energise Barnsley’s anniversary falls in the week when the University of Manchester handed an honorary doctorate to 23 year old England footballer Marcus Rashford for campaigning against child hunger.

The Yorkshire co-op now seeks to re-financing of its assets via its Barnsley Solar Series 2 Bond .  It is technically a Community Benefit Society, and thus outside investor protection measures provided by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The bond offer document predicts a 4% non-guaranteed return, for a minimum stake of £100 for Barnsley residents, and £1,000 minimum if you’re not a Tyke.

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