Pre-live activities

New groups have to decide whether to engage another party to provide ‘One Stop Shop’ services to deliver a Solar PV project for them, sometimes as part of a large aggregated scheme. Or whether to use a ‘Pick and Mix’ approach, providing some services themselves and engaging the services of businesses or other community group for other services.

  • Co-op Hive “The Hive is a new business support programme from Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Bank, for people wanting to start or grow co-operative or community enterprises. Our mix of online resources, advice and training can help you build a better co-operative business. “

    Energy for London “energy for london will  highlight sustainable energy projects being taken forward by individuals, community groups, local authorities and private sector developers and help share experience, contacts and advice in helping support further initiatives.”

    Energy Local “Energy Local has been set up to develop new systems so communities can benefit from pooling and using their own generation directly rather than selling it at a loss. It also lets them buy power for less at cheaper times of day. We were formed to help you save money and carbon and manage your energy use. This is done using new relationships with energy suppliers, smart meters and technology to give you a helping hand in how you use power.”

    Generation Community.” Experts in low carbon energy, finance and community investment..The directors of Gen Community share a vision of how new forms of finance can empower individuals and communities to catalyse social impact through the development of the low carbon economy. The team has a strong track record in low carbon energy, finance and community investment and is driven to ensure that Generation Community flourishes whilst its members and communities prosper.

    And Gen-Community offers “alternative financing models for energy projects.””

    Pure Leapfrog
    How we support Community Energy  “Projects accessing our Community Energy Fund benefit from:
    – A flexible approach that properly understands the demands of a community project
    – Low interest rates and flexible loan terms
    – More financial benefit retained within the community
    – Consulting & Delivery Services for the commercial and public sector:
    – Our in-house experts can advise on issues such as commercial funding criteria
    – Your project can gain access to proven models and a track record of delivery”

    The Schools’ Energy Co-operative “installs community funded solar panel systems on schools free of charge as well as paying all its profits to its member schools.  As a social enterprise, we are dedicated to supporting our school members and providing an alternative to the prevailing commercial rent a roof or leasing model. Our primary goal is to support schools and their community. Investors are provided with a fair interest return but no one profits at the school’s expense. The Co-op exists to enable its member schools successfully to install renewable energy and to support them in their environmental, educational and community work. It is not purely a financial arrangement.”

    Social Power “Social Power Partnerships can offer the experience and support you need to get your project over the line.

    We bring a wealth of energy knowledge to the table and a track record of delivering large scale sustainable energy programmes. We can help you engage the council and the planners. We can advise on the most suitable schemes. We can facilitate, build and ultimately manage and maintain your program.

    We can help with funding too through our banking connections and our crowd funding partners.  Need a debt facility?  We can help.  Want to promote your scheme through a crowd funder? We will propose the right one for you.”

PICK & MIX SERVICES

Unless a provider has been chosen to provide comprehensive ‘one stop shop’ services, individual services will be required at each stage. Choosing a provider for each service is a key part of the project timeline.

  •  UK Power Networks is the District Network Operator across London and no new generation capacity can be connected without their permission. Their web site contains all the forms and processes that must be followed to get this permission BEFORE committing to a solar PV project.

    Regen has an excellent guide for Community Groups wanting to understand about grid connections. Click on: Community Connections.

    It explains that there may be a (prohibitive) charge to connect:

    “If work is required on the grid before you can connect, there may be a one-off charge which will depend on your requirements and may include:  

    • Cost of modifying an existing part of the network
    • A portion of the cost of reinforcement to increase the electrical capacity of the network.”

    Hence the need to get pre-approval at no cost as a first step.

    Adding Storage? UK Power Networks also encourages local storage – with information in “A guide to electricity storage.

    “If you would like to meet with us to discuss project viability ahead of a formal application, please email DG-Q&A@ukpowernetworks.co.uk”

  • As a default, Solar PV is ‘permitted development‘ but it is prudent to get confirmation of this from the local Planning department, as there are exceptions.

    The Planning Portal lists the conditions to be met:

    “All the following limits must be met:

    • Panels should not be installed above the highest part of the roof (excluding the chimney) and should project no more than 200mm from the roof slope or wall surface.
    • The panels must not be installed on a building that is within the grounds of a listed building or on a site designated as a scheduled monument.
    • If your property is in a conservation area, or in a World Heritage Site, panels must not be fitted to a wall which fronts a highway.”

    Your installer will ensure that the positioning of an installation is correct, and may also handle planning permission applications.

    Listed Building? To identify whether the potential site is within the grounds of a listed building check with English Heritage at their site search.

    Conservation Area? To identify whether the potential site is in a local Conservation Area go to your Local Authority website and search for ‘conservation areas’ and also ‘Article 4’ areas.

     

  • A good relationship with an installer is key to success. Committing with one installer without checking out others could result in a trusted partnership approach with valued contributions, or high prices and poor service. Conversely a very competitive approach to choosing an installer could achieve low prices, but later added costs and ‘letter of the contract’ arguments. 

    Being very clear what is important from an installer is the starting point. Lowest panel cost? Quality panels and inverters with long lifetimes? Good input into design and other ideas? CEL Groups have used these installers, but does not make any recommendations.

    EcolutionRenewables “Since 1999, Ecolution, also known as Cel-F Solar systems, has installed thousands of renewable systems nationwide on a variety of buildings and roof types. We are one of the UK’s largest and longest standing construction specialists, focusing on the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV), solar hot water (SHW), mechanical ventilation heat recovery (MVHR), air source heat pumps (ASHP) and energy storage solutions.”

    GHG Energy work with developers to incorporate solar PV into new buildings, as well as retrofit schemes.

    JoJu Solar “Independent experts in solar energy, LED technology and battery storage and over the past decade we’ve designed and installed thousands of systems across the UK; for councils, universities, businesses and homeowners.”

    Soventix “Soventix is increasingly active in the field of Independent Power Production (IPP) and develops innovative business models for Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) that provide businesses with an independent, green option for its electricity needs, and investors with stable, predictable cash flow.”

  • There are a variety of sources of funds to get a project ‘investor ready’ and to fund the project from that point. See Funding and Grants for the latest opportunities. Once more CEL is not recommending any organisations in particular.

    Good Finance explains the different types of funds to be considered eg Charity bonds and Community Funds. Good Finance also explains the principles of Social Investment:

    “Social investment is the use of repayable finance to help an organisation achieve a social purpose.” 

  • Because Community Energy Groups are not regulated by the FCA, and are made up of people with a variety of professional expertise it is important to provide assurance to investors that a third party has examined their proposals and are satisfied they are viable. This can be by commissioning an accreditation mark or by using a crowdfunding platform that conducts appropriate Due Diligence (eg Ethex, though they do not accept liability). Only one accreditation product is shown here, and Community Energy London does not recommend any of them, though others may be available.

    Community Shares Unit (CSU) “The CSU is a joint initiative between Locality and Co-operatives UK, with funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government. Its objective is to support enterprises, promote good practice and raise awareness of community shares as a sustainable funding mechanism for community enterprises.”

    It offers a Communities Shares Standard Mark and introduces groups to practitioners. “The Mark is designed to promote public confidence in community shares. It also provides confidence to societies and their management committees, to commercial lenders, social investment financial intermediaries and public funding agencies.”

  • A report that examines the profile of people who are willing and able to invest in community and ethical projects is Ethex’ Understanding the Positive investor  (apply to receive the report)

    Crowd Funding Platforms
    Although a Community Energy Group can market a share offer using its own web site, there are sites that specialise in this, and deal with deposits, full payments and records, with varying prices for varying services.

    Once more Community Energy London does not recommend any of the companies here that have been used to market share offers, but lists them as a starting place to find these services.

    Community Shares – Microgenius   This site is a portal for all community share offers that have achieved a Communities Shares Standard Mark (CSU). It covers many sectors, and has a filter for ‘energy’ offers.

    Crowdfunder  raises funds for many different types of projects. Search to find similar projects to your own eg Solar.

    Ethex offers a wide range of ‘positive investments’, explained on the web site . Ethex goes through a thorough process to ascertain eligibility before accepting an investment.

    Share Energy explains the risks and restriction of Community Energy investments . Share energy supports schemes all the way through. As well as managing the share offer Share Energy services include:
    Site finding and initial assessment, Landowner engagement, Technical, Regulatory and Installation, Business planning, Society setup.