Funding for Community Renewable Energy Projects
Communities around the country are getting together to reduce their carbon footprint in a variety of ways. From a group of householders collaborating on buying better home insulation, to members of a village community deciding to install solar panels on their church hall, to more ambitious wind-turbine schemes, potential obstacles relating to finance and planning restrictions depend on the nature and scale of the project.
This WinACC briefing outlines some of the ways communities can gain funding for projects, and where to go for more information.
Note: this briefing is about schemes in England, since WinACC is based in Hampshire and because the rules in Wales and Scotland are different. See the Resources section for where to go for funding advice in Wales and Scotland.
(You can also download this briefing as a pdf)
There’s a lot of work to do before you start applications for funding. The Energy Saving Trust has an excellent briefing on how to plan, deliver, monitor and evaluate a social project based around renewable energy in your community. Read more at:
A community renewable energy scheme should yield a better financial return than installing your own grid-connected renewable energy system, due to the economies of scale inherent in larger installations. Local people become stake-holders in energy schemes, not just consumers, and the community works together. The Centre for Alternative Technology has some useful advice and a case study from Wales at:
This organisation is owned by seven renewable energy co-operatives, mostly focused on wind power. It is working to expand the number of renewable energy co-operatives in the UK as part of the transition to a low carbon economy. It offers a package of specialist advice for an annual fee. Projects are largely financed by investment from the Co-operative Bank.
Other groups have decided to support large energy companies who are already planning big renewable energy schemes in their area. The energy company takes the financial risk and local communities gain community benefit through the planning system. The benefit could be improvements to local facilities such as a village hall, or grants towards environmental improvements such as micro-generation for local homes, or even local ownership where local people are given shares in the scheme. See this Friends of the Earth briefing for more details of community benefit:
There is a bewildering range of grants and loans available for community renewable energy projects. Funding organisations all have different aims and groups must do their research to make sure their scheme falls in the specific remit of the funder. Here is a summary of where to find more information:
Organisations in the voluntary sector working to create social and environmental impact can apply for various types of social investment. These include a variety of grants and loans, including: Pre-funding of fundraising, philanthropic capital, equity investment (finance from the sale of your shares), social impact bonds (investment from the private sector), community investment (shares in a co-operative enterprise sold to members of a that community) and Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs). There is more on each of these at:
Shares in the enterprise are sold to people in the community who control the enterprise as shareholders. This works well when members of the community want to raise finance for a project that will generate its own income, such as a renewable energy scheme. Needless to say this only works when the community is united and willing to support the scheme. The Community Shares website is run by the Department for Communities and Local Government at:
Locally-based organisation, managing funds from local individuals and businesses that want to help projects in their area:
Community Foundation Network
Sources of Local Authority Funding for community schemes by County:
Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs)
Small independent organisations who lend to groups who have been unable to obtain finance from mainstream sources. Triodos Band is one example.
Funding available for a range of sustainable businesses from this ethical bank. Triodos Renewables owns and manages Kessingland Wind Farm, Suffolk comprising of two 2.05MW wind turbines constructed in 2011. Members of the public can buy shares in this enterprise.
Many groups have chosen the Social Enterprise model. Social enterprises are businesses created specifically to address an environmental or social need in society. Like other businesses they have to compete in the market to make money. But instead of creating value for shareholders or owners, any profit goes to benefit the community. There are a lot of different legal models and WinACC can advise further.
Friends of the Earth Resources
Feed in Tariffs
Briefing on Supporting Renewable Energy Projects in your area
Centre for Alternative Technology
Free information service on renewable energy schemes of all types
Low Carbon Buildings
Advice on domestic micro-generation and grants
Energy Savings Trust
Advice for individuals and communities
Renewable Energy funding for Community projects in Wales
SCOTLAND: Climate Challenge Fund
WHAT IS A WATT?
A watt is a unit of power.
1 kilowatt (kW) = 1,000 watts, 1 megawatt (MW) = 1 million watts.
0.1 watts used by washing machine on standby.
5-30 watts used by fluorescent lamps.
25-100 watts used by old-fashioned lightbulb.
500,000 watt (500 kW) wind turbine produces enough energy to power 100 homes.
20 MW solar farm produces enough electricity to power 5,100 homes.