Brighton and Hove Energy Saving Co-operative (BHESCO) recently launched a bid to raise £1M to fund up to 10 community renewable energy projects in Sussex.
The initiative uses the same community shares method used by The Phone Co-op, Community Power Cornwall, FC United of Manchester and The Resilience Centre in Gloucestershire.
When people put money into the co-operative, they become members and buy shares. For a minimum investment of £250, each investor receives a 5-7% year on year return.
BHESCO’s share offer feeds into an innovative business model that forms a blueprint for energy groups across the country. By establishing a portfolio of services, including partnerships with energy suppliers, energy assessments and energy consultancy, the co-operative has successfully created a number of robust revenue streams. The model can be adopted in other towns and cities to ensure endurance of local energy groups.
Kayla Ente, Founder and Director of BHESCO said, “As well as being an exciting opportunity for the South East, this project has national significance. Due to continuous price rises and poor customer service from the Big Six, 67% of Britons would like the energy industry to be renationalised.
“Community energy groups offer the alternative and can restore the trust that was lost, but many need to be future-proofed. Our model can help them do just that and we’re putting it to the test with our first share launch. As well as the immediate financial returns from investment, we want people from across the country to see the wider potential of this project. The great thing is anyone can get involved.”
The first installations include a biomass boiler for an independent school in Hove and a total retrofit of energy saving technology, including a solar array, for a social enterprise that manages affordable office spaces. BHESCO is also working with Brighton & Hove City Council to install solar on schools.
As well as benefitting from the government’s Feed-In-Tariff and renewable heat incentive – which guarantees a fixed price for community generated renewable energy for 20 years, the projects will also make significant savings on energy bills.
These factors combined give investors a 5% annual return on their investment, while enabling BHESCO to reinvest any profits in more community owned energy projects.
Kayla added, “We’re used to thinking that doing good and making money are often opposed, especially when it comes to energy, but that doesn’t apply here.
“This is a win-win-win – Sussex gets more renewable energy while properties are made more efficient, cutting our carbon footprint and energy bills. Businesses and organisations we work with get cheaper energy, and the people who’s money makes it happen receive an interest rate that’s 10 times better than what they’re getting on their bank savings.”
In addition to strong financial returns offered by BHESCO, HMRC has provided advanced assurance for EIS tax relief for investments in community share projects. This brings the annual return to over 7% for qualifying individuals.
As a result, people who invest £500 will be able to claim £150 of that straight back in their next tax return. If the interest rate continues into subsequent tax years, investors will have doubled their money in 11 years. Moreover they will become part of a movement that helps reduce reliance on fossil fuels and contributes to a more sustainable future.
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, said, “We know governments can and should do more, but people tired of waiting for an energy revolution can take matters into their own hands by investing in BHESCO.
“I think this is incredibly powerful, and I hope that in years to come, when we look over a city generating a large part of its energy renewably, we can say it started with people taking matters in to their own hands in a positive way.”
The minimum investment is £250 and the maximum is £100,000. To apply visit www.ethex.org.uk