The purpose of Chase Community Solar (CCS) is to generate electricity from solar panels to reduce fuel poverty of the Cannock Chase area. This project enables people who live in social housing to benefit from free energy while providing an opportunity for socially minded investors.
CCS successfully reached the target in early 2015, just four months after launching the share offer to install solar PV panels on hundreds of roofs in Cannock, Staffordshire.
CCS was approached by Cannock Chase District Council to install solar PV panels on council bungalows as they were looking for a social enterprise to undertake this work. This project is in an area that is not particularly wealthy, a former mining area that does not have a tradition of active social enterprise.
The panels are estimated to produce electricity savings of £100-200 per annum for tenants, many who are older people living on low incomes.
The sole activity of CCS is to own and manage the solar PV panels on social housing owned by Cannock Chase Council and the distribution of any community fund arising from this.
When developing the scheme there were a number of issues that they had to overcome. The grid operator required the scheme to be scaled down and some of the properties turned out not to be suitable for PV. Despite these issues, the share offer has been successfully developed and CSS reached their target on 9 February 2015.
Returns are generated by the government’s Feed-in Tariff subsidy, and excess funds will be used to build up a local community benefit fund.
CCS is a great example of how community shares can be used to raise investment to enable social housing to play its part in generating more renewable energy. CCS hopes that this project will show others that this can be done and encourage them to follow suite.
HOW DID THEY RAISE THE INVESTMENT?
The share offer itself raised over £750,000, primarily through the Ethex platform. This was significantly higher than the minimum raise for the offer to proceed that was set at £370,000.
The minimum investment was fixed at £100 and the maximum was £100,000, with share withdrawal suspended until year 4 and share interest payable from March 2016.
Chase Community Solar received Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment and Enterprise Investment Schemes (SEIS) advanced assurance from HMRC, meaning that investors can claim tax relief on their investment. The project is predicted save 176-335 tonnes of CO2 per annum, so contributing to local district targets to reduce carbon emissions.
THE INVESTOR’S VIEW
“Community benefit is three fold – to the tenants who get cheaper energy, to the investor who has the opportunity to invest in an ethical project, and to the local community into which any surplus will be invested.”
Andrea Simpson, CCS Board member
“I’m not a routine investor, I don’t invest in the stock market or anything like that but this is about investing in our community. It’s about bringing renewable energy to a section of the community who wouldn’t have access to it and removing people from fuel poverty.”
Paul Woodhead, CCS member