Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC), alongside Triodos Bank UK (Triodos), is pleased to announce its renewed investment in Heart of England Community Energy (HECE), the largest community-owned solar farm in the UK, located in Warwickshire. This is SASC’s sixth community energy investment highlighting a commitment to funding community-owned assets that deliver real social impact. SASC has now invested a total of over £15.5m in renewable energy projects.
Heart of England Community Energy uses profits from the solar farm to support several inclusion and equality projects in the local area. Organisations that benefit include Harbury e-Wheels, a Warwickshire-based community transport charity and Act On Energy, which helps local households struggling with fuel poverty.
In 2017, SASC provided bridge loans to enable HECE to acquire three solar farms in South Warwickshire. Two years on, SASC is providing £2.7 million of long-term capital and £1.5m of short-term loans to be repaid via a series of community bond offers over the next two years. Including senior loans from Triodos, HECE has been successful in securing £16.2 million of investment.
The solar farms are made up of 60,000 solar panels and generate enough renewable electricity to power 4,500 homes. The project is unique amongst SASC’s energy investments in that it is co-located with 3MW of battery storage capacity, operated by a third party, meaning that the site is used to both generate solar energy as well as provide storage services to the grid.
The project is managed by Communities for Renewables CIC (CfR), which provides company and asset management services to 50MW of community solar projects across 7 localities. SASC and CfR have previously worked together on the Gawcott Fields Community Solar Project CIC in Buckinghamshire.
Krishna Chokshi, Investment Manager at SASC said,
“We are delighted to renew our investment in HECE, whose performance has significantly exceeded our expectations since coming into community ownership two years ago. This is a great community-owned project with an outstanding local board of trustees who are overseeing its governance and performance. HECE is providing real financial benefits for individuals and families living in fuel poverty in the region through the distribution of community benefit. Work done by HECE unlocks significant additional grants for fuel efficiency, leveraging in as much as seven times the amount of funding generated by the project.”
“Community energy projects like this are essential as communities look to provider greener energy solutions and surpluses for the benefit of their local area. It is fantastic to see social investment providing finance that is enabling projects like this to thrive.”
Jake Burnyeat, director at Communities for Renewables CIC, said:
“CfR and the Heart of England Community Energy board are very pleased to have reached this milestone. The loans from Triodos Bank and Social and Sustainable Capital provide a long-term lower cost finance solution which will help increase surplus income generated by the community solar farm to support local projects. It is also important that the funders share our values. Look out for the community bond offer which will launch next year and give an opportunity for people from the local and wider community to get involved!”
Philip Bazin, Environment Team Manager at Triodos Bank UK said:
“This transaction proves that community energy schemes can be delivered and financed at scale. It also demonstrates our expertise at financing solar projects with co-located with batteries, and at combining different tranches of finance. Such schemes have multiple positive impacts, not only do they help the clean energy transition, but their profits also benefit local people. By driving down the cost of finance, we have helped Heart of England solar to operate more profitably and increase its financial contribution to the community.”
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Notes for Editors
About Social and Sustainable Capital
SASC provides simple finance for extraordinary charities and social enterprises. We believe greater access to the right kind of investment makes charities and social enterprises better able to tackle society’s most pressing challenges. Our funds provide flexible capital to enable social sector organisations to grow their social impact, improving the lives of disadvantaged people across the UK. SASC is a social enterprise.