Powering Community: Our proposal to fund community projects from the sun

Last Thursday, I introduced our motion for the Council to invest in solar panels as a cost-effective way of going green and funding community projects together.

We proposed setting up a local Community Trust Fund linked to an Energy Services Company (ESCo) to enable investments to return the government subsidy (called the Feed-in-Tariff, FIT) from generating solar power to support community projects. This approach would give a much higher rate of return to community projects than Community Trusts that invest donations in the stock market – while cutting the running costs of our community buildings at the same time.

I said, “This motion proposes using council buildings and leveraging other buildings to fit solar (also called photo-voltaic, PV) panels to generate renewable electricity and return the FIT to local charities.

The current government support for solar power reduces from 43.2p to 21p per unit on Monday. However, current proposals being consulted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change propose a higher tariff (about 5p higher) where this FIT payment is transferred to community benefit rather than private income. This means that donating the FIT is a cost effective way for companies to invest in PV to reduce energy needs and also deliver benefits to the local community.

This motion proposes the Council’s Executive considers investing some of our money to kickstart this project. We could easily do this working through an existing bulk buying agreement with a not-for-profit organisation. Alliance Homes (in North Somerset) have set up such an umbrella scheme to put solar panels on 75,000 homes and are happy to partner with the council. This approach can deliver a good return on investment, especially if a premium for community benefit schemes is considered.

The basis of this proposal is to invest in local solar panels, and donate the Feed In Tariff money to local community projects each year – as a good way for corporate and individual donations to give into community projects.

We understand that this approach has been delivered on a community scheme near Dover where money from solar panels on community buildings help fund community activities inside. Also, in Muswell Hill in North London, we understand that Marks and Spencer have installed solar panels and donate the feed-in tariff to community projects in their local area.

But such an initiative has not yet been led and delivered by a council, which could encourage different companies and individuals to invest in the scheme.”


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