Power to Change and Big Society Capital launch £40m investment partnership to help communities take over local solar farms

 

Power to Change and Big Society Capital have come together in a partnership to tackle a key market failure in the energy sector; how to facilitate community ownership of existing ground-mounted solar farms in England and maximise the social, environmental and financial impact they generate for their local area.

Kickstarting the investment programme is the purchase of the Newton Downs solar farm in Newton Ferrers, near Plymouth, from renewable electricity supplier Good Energy. Over time Community-Owned Renewable Energy Partners (CORE), the vehicle for the partnership, will transition the site into the hands of Yealm Community Energy, a local community business. The installation is forecast to generate in excess of £1.4m income for local community organisations and projects over its lifetime.

CORE aims to acquire six to eight solar farms over the next 12 months, alongside local community energy groups, with a view to maximising the benefit for the community. The partnership will give the community groups up to three years to raise the funding necessary to fully transfer the ownership into community hands.

The partnership between Power to Change and Big Society Capital was originally set up in response to the Government’s reduction to feed-in tariffs which curtailed the development of community energy solar projects. A further challenge arose to the community energy sector when the enabling legislation, which was to provide for the transfer of five Megawatt solar farms such as Newton Downs from the private sector into community ownership, failed thus curtailing the benefit to local communities.

Power to Change, the independent trust supporting community businesses in England, already has a successful track record of funding local community energy businesses, from solar to wind to biomass. These businesses span the length and breadth of England, from Barnsley to Bristol to Brixton. In the partnership with Big Society Capital, Power to Change is deploying funds from its £150m endowment from the Big Lottery Fund.

Power to Change Chief Executive, Vidhya Alakeson, had this to say about the announcement:

”We are really excited to be investing part of our endowment in community energy assets in this pioneering approach in partnership with Big Society Capital. We believe this to be one of the largest ever mission-aligned investments by a UK foundation. By getting further involved in this sector, Power to Change is demonstrating how community businesses are stepping in to address market failure and creating assets that really benefit their communities.”

 

Jeremy Rogers, Chief Investment Officer at Big Society Capital, said:

“We are proud to be supporting Power to Change to bring more energy assets in to community ownership. Locally owned energy can help generate long-term revenue streams for local issues, such as fuel poverty. We are particularly excited to be partnering with Power to Change on their leading work in building community businesses.”

 

Juliet Davenport, CEO Good Energy, added:

“We’re thrilled to be able to pass the Newton Downs site back to community hands, as part of our purpose to do things differently in the energy sector and supporting our vision of a cleaner, greener future. We will continue working with the Newton Downs site having committed to an ongoing purchase of power from them.”

 

CORE Partners is now seeking to acquire any solar assets from developers or investment funds where the local community already demonstrates a keen interest to take ownership. CORE Partners is being advised by Environmental Finance.

For more information please contact:

Mark Gordon: markg@powertochange.org.uk.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. About Power to Change: Power to Change is an independent trust, whose funding is used to strengthen community businesses across England. At a time when many parts of the UK face cuts, neglect and social problems, we are helping local people come together to take control, and make sure their local areas survive and stay vibrant. Follow Power to Change on Twitter at @peoplesbiz and visit www.thepowertochange.org.uk for the latest community business news.
  2. About Big Society Capital: Big Society Capital improves the lives of people in the UK by connecting social investment to charities and social enterprises. We engage with investors, fund managers, charities and social enterprises to make it easier to use social investment. With our co-investors, we have made over £1bn of new capital available to organisations with a social mission, through investments into fund managers and social banks. We have a special focus on: providing homes for people in need; supporting communities to improve lives; and early action to prevent problems.
  3. About Good Energy: Good Energy is a fast-growing green energy company, generating and selling 100% renewable electricity and green gas to households and businesses across the UK. An AIM-listed PLC, and founder member of the Social Stock Exchange, Good Energy’s purpose is to support change in the energy market, address climate change and boost energy security’
  4. About Big Lottery Fund. The Big Lottery Fund supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities across the UK. We are responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery and invest over £650 million a year in projects big and small in health, education, environment and charitable purposes. Since June 2004 we have awarded over £8 billion to projects that change the lives of millions of people. Every year we fund 13,000 small local projects tackling big social problems like poor mental health and homelessness. Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £34 billion has been raised and more than 450,000 grants awarded.