Building Community Power CO-OPperatively: A Renewable Energy Summit

Friday, 20 January 2012

A Co-operative Approach to Going Solar

by Energy Matters

A growing number of people are starting renewable energy schemes in their communities through co-operatives and other forms of collaboration.

A recent report from Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Group states 43 communities are in the process of or already producing renewable energy by investing money to install solar panels, large wind turbines or hydro-electric power in their area.

£16 million has been invested by over 7,000 people in these schemes, which include a £2 million wind farm and a 98kW solar photovoltaic installation on the roof of a brewery.

The report says green economy co-operatives are the most rapidly growing part of the UK co-op sector, jumping 24% since 2008.

In addition to these co-operatives' efforts seeing clean, renewable energy being supplied to their communities, there is also a financial return to participants through the sale of electricity produced.

The co-operative approach covered in the report basically works like this:

- A core group establishes the feasibility of a project, a process that may be assisted by a grant or the advice from other co-ops or non-profits.

- A share prospectus outlining the business plan, expected return on investment and other benefits is published and marketed locally.

- All investors become members of the co-op.

- Once sufficient funding is raised, which may also involve a bank loan, the facility is constructed.

- Members receive a return and decide how profits will be allocated.

Paul Monaghan of The Co-operative Group says the potential for a community-led clean energy revolution in the UK is huge.

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