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Community energy: get your neighbours together for cheaper energy

With energy prices soaring, and everyone trying to be greener, the idea of clubbing together with your neighbours so that you can all benefit from cheaper, greener energy sounds like a great idea, right? And you would be right. But sometimes life takes more than just a good idea.

The question is: in these times of austerity, can you even finance community renewable energy projects? There are government-backed schemes that provide a return on investment over the long term, 20 or 25 years, including:

Feed-in Tariff – the Feed-in Tariff is a government scheme that allows you to earn money when you generate your own renewable electricity

Renewable Heat Incentive – the Renewable Heat Incentive is a similar payment available for heat-generating technologies, although for commercial projects only at the moment

That’s all well and good, but to get started, you’ll have to secure the capital finance to get your project off the ground, and many of the other grants and funding pots have all but dried up.

For certain types of organisations however – charities, not-for-profits and community cooperatives – there may be an answer.  PURE The Clean Planet Trust offers low interest finance of up to £50k or 50% of the capital cost to part fund renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

The funds, which originally come from corporate and individual donations such as Barclaycard and British Airways customers, are typically paid back over a period of 5-7 years at an interest rate of 4% APR.  The repayments can then be ‘revolved’ to finance the next community project.

In the last funding round, PURE loans helped five projects in BrightonBristolDarlingtonNewcastle and Weymouth to generate renewable heat or electricity.  The projects are:

– two community-owned swimming pools,

– two community centres, and

– one community energy cooperative.

Between them the projects will save over 1,200 tonnes of carbon emissions, and will generate, after loan repayments, in excess of£500,000 for good causes in their local communities.

Adam Graveley, of BRE, who administer the fund on behalf of PURE, said:

“It’s great to see charities and community groups aspiring to do something about climate change by installing renewable energy in their communities.  

PURE have just signed an agreement with social lender, Big Society Capital, to access an additional £1m loan pot, so we are looking for more projects. We are particularly interested in supporting projects that demonstrate a strong community benefit and are located in the 50% most deprived areas.  We can tell you in less than 5 minutes whether your project is likely to qualify so please get in touch.”

Interested?  The current funding round is open for expressions of interest until 17th August; register on the PURE website at www.puretrust.org.uk/communityenergyfundeoi.jsp or email info@puretrust.org.uk.  There is an application process for selected projects with a view to funds being made available by the end of October.

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