What we did in 2014
First of all, we set up PEC Renewables, a Community Benefit Society giving our local community the opportunity to collectively invest in, and own, renewable energy schemes in Plymouth.
In February 2014, we launched our first solar share offer to provide a fund to build solar installations. During a share offer, individuals and organisations are able to buy community shares. By investing, people become members of PEC Renewables and have a say in how it is run (find out more about PEC Renewables governance here).
Plymouth City Council showed their support by providing a loan of £500,000 from their Investment Fund. This allowed us to finalise our financial and legal models and undertake site feasibility surveys. A further £500,000 was sought from the community.
To maximise the benefits and make this as accessible as possible, we set the minimum investment to £50; allowing as many local people as possible to take part.
The speed with which the community reacted meant that the share offer closed after just 7 weeks, at £602,000. Over 50% of our supporters are from the Plymouth area showing local ownership of energy production is thought of favourably in and around the city!
After reaching our target amount, we contracted local solar specialists, to install a combined total of 0.8MW of solar PV for free on 21 schools and community buildings in Plymouth. This is the equivalent needed to power 250 homes. By October 2014, this was complete and we increased Plymouth’s solar PV generation by 6% in just one year.
How does it work
The solar PV panels convert sunlight to energy. The host buildings pay us a reduced rate for the solar energy that they use and we sell surplus energy back to the National Grid. In addition, we receive a government subsidy called the Feed-in Tariff. The money raised from energy sales and the Feed-in Tariff is used to pay a return to our investors, as well as cover maintenance of our solar arrays. Surplus funds from the business will be used by PEC to tackle the challenges that fuel poverty and carbon emissions present for our area.
The schools and local organisations are reducing their energy costs via lower electricity bills and the educational benefits are also inspiring young people in their classrooms.
Pupils are able to see how much energy their solar roofs are generating via digital displays located in the school receptions and also via on-line interfaces. The web-based programmes not only show the electricity generated but also show the equivalent environmental benefits.
The success achieved in our first year earned us local, regional and national recognition:
- ‘Investment Deal of the Year’ at the UK Social Enterprise Awards (in conjunction with Ethex).
- ‘Best Community Initiative‘ at the 2014 Regen SW Green Energy Awards;
- ‘Best Green Project’ at Plymouth’s Abercrombie Awards.
- Barbara Hampson (PEC Director and founder PEC Renewables Director) won ‘Volunteer of the Year’ at the UK Community Energy Awards.
- PEC was also shortlisted for ‘Best Community Energy Start Up’ at the UK Community Energy Awards and ‘Community Project of the Year’ at the Pride of Plymouth Awards.
Find out more
Go to the PEC Renewables Governance page to read the Rules governing the Society, see share offer documents, AGM minutes and read Financial Reports.