Repowering South London
The Repowering London Projects – there are currently three with prospects for more – are a powerful example of community driven work and enterprise creation. Chatting to Afsheen, Agamemnon, Andre and Jason on one of their busiest days you would be forgiven for not realising that these are Directors of a powerful force in South London. Appointed by the Cooperative members of Brixton Energy Solar 1 and Brixton Energy Solar 2, they were good enough to give some time to GNCE during the launch of the latest Repowering South London Project.
Building on the long tradition of Cooperative Societies, Repowering South London has used finance from diverse sources including CESP, LEAF and Cooperative Society Share Subscriptions. The Brixton 1 project raised £58,000 in less than a month from 103 investors and Brixton 2 raised £60,000 from 78 investors. The model for investor income is simple: the Feed-in Tariff (FIT), a 20-year inflation-protected price per kWh that is legally required by the Government to be paid by the electricity supplier for generation of electricity from renewable resources; an export tariff under the FIT for the sale of electricity exported to the National Grid; and possible sale of discounted electricity of energy to be consumed on-site.
While the Cooperative Societies formed are seeking an income, it is not simply a means to providing shareholders with a dividend. Shareholders are invited to allocate their annual share interest payment to the Community Energy Efficiency Fund (CEEF). This enables Repowering London to promote community development of practical opportunities for making the most of energy in Brixton. Not only does this take the form of Energy Efficiency Advice Sessions but also genuine work experience opportunities with Renewables Installers. Building both community and business in cooperation. The Directors have allocated 20% of total nett profits to the CEEF and encourage Shareholders to donate annual share payment and still get 50% tax relief and their money back at the end of the project. The whole project has a powerful drive towards reducing both fuel poverty and empowering the community.
The Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) forms a key part of the Investment Offer to the Public. While the explanation from Brixton Energy Solar 2 is brief it is informative enough for a potential investor to grasp just how valuable investment can be. The financial model makes clear that the Social Capital Return is of as much importance as the Economic Capital Return. Which shows in the relationships it has developed with Lambeth Council.
Brixton Energy has a strong relationship with Lambeth Council and United Residents Housing which has allowed people like Andy Walker to identificy Key Performance Indicators that advance the quality of Lambeth Housing Stock. In a Council where 59% of children and young people live in poverty anything that advances Lambeth Council’s Child Poverty Reduction Strategy is very worthy of note. Brixton Energy and United Residents Housing are helping Lambeth to achieve key objectives of increasing opportunities for adults to enter employment, education and training and of supporting adults in gaining skills – including volunteering – and tackling financial exclusion by empowering the community with clear routes to reduction of fuel poverty. The Support of Lambeth Council in the Cooperative ideal is important but should not overshadow the tremendous Community Achievement. The wealth of Neigbourhoods, Housing and Health and Safety expertise coming from people like Andy gives Lambeth a unique and powerful route to thriving, sustainable communities.
Installing over 130kW of Solar Arrays is no mean feat. Installing it in the 15th poorest area in the UK is even more impressive. By improving the thermal performance of the Loughborough and Roupell Park Estates, Lambeth is ensuring that energy bills come down for people living in fuel poverty. That puts more cash into the local economy which improves the situation for the whole Community. Lambeth Council have already benefited by being able to provide upgraded double glazing and insulation to a range of properties because the relationship with Brixton Energy is a relationship with a clear vision of bringing Energy Generation into the Community for the benefit of the Community.
The The future for Brixton Energy might not be with only Solar Panels. Alert to the changing and evolving nature of the Green Economy, Repowering London may well be putting the Cooperative spirit into Renewable Heating for Communties. The supportive role of Lambeth Council is the kind of forward looking social investment that the Green Economy needs. Not just insulating building to reduce energy use but also putting power generation into the hands of communities.