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Bristol Energy Cooperative Celebrates Solar Success Of £10m

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Solar success BEC at Lawrence Weston

Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC) celebrates reaching over £10m in its ambitious solar fund-raise, funding the construction of a new solar farm in Bristol

Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC) has celebrated reaching the powerful sum of £10 million in its fund-raising campaign to offer the city and surrounding area a brighter, cleaner energy future. BEC’s £10m fund-raise will not only reduce carbon emissions, but also leave a legacy of social benefits with all the profits from BEC’s solar projects being invested back into the community. Around £70,000 will be available for local community projects each year for the 25 years of the solar projects.

The money raised since November 2015 through a share offer and bond offer is already working for the community’s benefit with £3.5m raised through crowdfunding. BEC has built and switched-on a new 4.2 MWp solar farm at Lawrence Weston, financed an operating 4.6 MWp solar farm in Somerset and is installing solar panels on community roofs across Bristol.

Bristol Energy Cooperative has already installed solar panels on Coniston Community Centre, Easton Community Centre and Brentry and Henbury Children’s Centre, which will help these organisations reduce their energy bills and carbon footprint. Around 10 additional community roofs in the Bristol region, including the Architecture Centre and Wick’s Sports Centre, are lined up to join this community solar initiative.

Altogether BEC’s new installations will generate enough energy to power 2,270 average UK homes; this is equivalent to 9,268 kWp of solar PV capacity, generating an average of 9,300 MWh of electricity each year.

Chris Speller, co-director of BEC said: “We’re proud to announce that our fund-raise has reached over £10m enabling the funding of all the solar projects in this phase of expansion. The BEC Board of Directors would like to thank our growing community of investors and supporters who have helped us reach this significant target.

We’re proud to announce that our fund-raise has reached over £10m enabling the funding of all the solar projects in this phase of expansion.

“Our success demonstrates growing momentum to generate and control energy at a local level. Investing in community energy is an accessible way to make a personal positive impact on climate change, improve the local sense of community and get a good rate of return on savings. We’re determined to build on this strong foundation and continue to work towards Bristol’s zero carbon targets, whilst extending participation in community energy locally and beyond.”

People-powered energy

BEC’s membership has more than doubled to 425 members, who invested in its share offer, with 800 investors in the bond and share offer in total. This clearly illustrates the drive to make the transition to renewables as an alternative way to power cities and communities.

Since beginning this £10m fund-raise, BEC has faced many additional challenges, including changes to Government policy on community energy as well as the economic uncertainty around Brexit. The overwhelming success of the co-op’s fund-raise in this context shows that there is a strong desire to move towards alternative energy generation and confidence in community energy investment with its financial, social and environmental benefits.

This fund-raising campaign also demonstrates the power of collaboration in the transition to cleaner energy. As well as developing partnerships with local community groups, including regeneration organisation, Ambition Lawrence Weston, BEC has partnered with Mongoose Energy, the UK’s leading community energy business, and Ethex, positive investment platform, on the share and bond offer. Other partners including, Bristol City Council, Triodos Bank, Social and Sustainable Capital and Close Brothers, have provided loan funding for the projects.

Christine Davis, Manager at The Architecture Centre in Bristol, one of the buildings which will benefit from BEC’s community solar, said:

“This is a fantastic scheme that really exemplifies the potential of the ‘triple bottom line’ approach – bringing  social, environmental and financial benefits. Investing in this scheme will enable small charities and community organisations  like us to invest in something we could not otherwise contemplate – and will have a lasting positive impact on our organisation, the people we work with, and the planet.

“As an independent not-for profit-organisation we would reinvest money saved in our activities – for example helping us to reach more young people through inspirational programmes such as Shape My City which provides life-changing mentoring opportunities and empowers young people to help shape their neighbourhood for the better.”

Find out more about how to get involved with BEC on its website: http://www.bristolenergy.coop

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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