Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC) is community-owned and growing the local area’s renewable energy supply while making the benefits open to all.
The combined effects on the community energy market of the reductions to the Feed in Tariff for solar energy were profound, with an estimated £266m of schemes postponed or cancelled in 2015. Those schemes that did persist in the face of such obstacles are under significant time pressure to raise funding and energise their pre-accredited sites by no later than September 2016 in the face of reduced tax incentives for potential investors, a situation that was particularly acute for organisations such as Bristol Community Energy (‘BEC’) who were seeking to develop larger scale solar installations of over 4MW.
SASC saw an opportunity to fill the funding gap, whilst ensuring improved social outcomes for the local community. Our loan supported the development of a solar farm in Lawrence Weston (LW), a community suffering from multiple indicators of deprivation, on the outskirts of Bristol. SASC has invested alongside Triodos Bank, Bristol City Council, Power to Change and community shareholders in a deal worth over £4.3m. To enable local residents of LW to invest alongside us, the minimum community share investment size was reduced to £50, one of the lowest levels in the UK for such a project.
The successful completion of the Lawrence Weston Solar Farm will enable BEC to come the UK’s largest generator of community energy, providing enough green electricity to power over 2,400 homes. The estimated £2m+ of surpluses from the project will be invested back into the community. What’s more, at least half will go directly to the community of Lawrence Weston through its community organisation Ambition Lawrence Weston to fund the development of local community services and amenities. The remainder will fund fuel poverty initiatives in the Bristol area.