Stone King’s Julian Blake has had the privilege of working with Energy4All since its first project in 2002. It is a leading and pioneering community renewable consultancy and each new co-operative they create is making a valuable contribution to its community and the national renewable energy agenda. This is how they work.
- Who are Energy4All?
Most of us do our recycling and make small adjustments in our day-to-day lives in an attempt to combat climate change. Energy4All has been working at the other end of the scale for almost 20 years by setting up nearly 30 co-operatives that run their own renewable energy schemes, supporting the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.
The consultancy has supported, developed and managed projects from the south coast of Hampshire up to the Isle of Skye, including wind, biomass, solar and hydropower schemes, in collaboration with and funded by the communities that own them.
The organisation was formed in 2002 by the team behind the award-winning Baywind Co-operative Limited, which was the first UK co-operative to build wind turbines after it successfully raised £2 million through community share offers in 1997. Energy4All and its ‘family’ of co-operatives now have a cabinet overflowing with awards, including the prestigious Ashden Award given to sustainable energy pioneers and in 2018 the Outstanding Contribution to Community Energy Award by Community Energy England.
Annette Heslop MBE, Company Secretary and Finance Director, explains: “After Baywind we kept getting inundated with people wanting to replicate it. We've grown at a gradual rate since 2002 and we've created 27 co-operatives and counting, and every one of these has been a success.”
To date, every project supported by Energy4All has successfully raised the money required for construction and, once built, has performed profitably, providing benefits to the community while delivering an annual return on capital to members.
- So how do they work?
Energy4All is owned by the co-operatives it assists and each new co-operative takes a share in the organisation. They receive project proposals from landowners, farmers, community groups and even commercial developers.
Their business model, approved by the Financial Conduct Authority, offers environmental and community benefit with a reasonable investment return. They raise the capital to build each project and connect it to the grid and the co-operative then earns income from electricity generation under a Power Purchase Agreement.
Annette says: “We do a lot of hand-holding in the early stages. We find local people to act as directors and support them through the whole process, from pre-planning, funding and building the project. We then manage the projects once they are up and running, funded through an annual fee.”
Energy4All has moved from wind on to other forms of renewable energy, each requiring very different expertise, which the organisation has built up over the years.
“You bring in your experts but we’ve also found great people along the way with knowledge that we can tap into.” Annette explains. “We have also built up a huge bank of knowledge over time through our projects, we know the pitfalls.”
- And where does the money come from?
Local fundraising is usually not enough to pay for a project, which is why Energy4All reaches out to their growing membership to invest. “We make sure that local people have shares,” says Annette, “but people living in the city shouldn't be excluded for not living close to a wind farm or not having a roof that they can put solar panels on. Each new co-operative brings in more members, so for each new share offer we can reach out to more people.”
With legislative changes ahead, including the closing of Renewables Obligation (RO) and Feed-In Tariffs scheme, there is likely to be an expansion in solar energy projects. For example, the Schools’ Energy Co-operative, set up by Energy4All, is one of the UK’s biggest rooftop solar co-operatives. Having completed five share offers it now operates at more than 60 schools, with more signed up.
Annette concludes: “Every project has enabled people to do something practical about climate change and every share offer has been over-subscribed. Not everyone can install solar or build a wind turbine, but they still want to do something about climate change and taking a share in a community owned project is the next best thing.”