Saturday 22nd October 2016                 Change text size:

Wedmore: community action, renewable energy and financial returns


Blue & Green Tomorrow’s core aim is to encourage readers to buy from, and invest in, businesses that balance the needs of the planet, its people and all of our prosperity. One such organisation is Wedmore Community Power Co-operative.

Wedmore is a vibrant rural community now directly served by its own green power plant. Wedmore Community Power Co-operative’s brand new 1 megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic (PV) plant was commissioned recently.

It hopes to raise just over £1.2m in equity and bonds, in order to fund the development of 4,000 solar panels. To date it has raised over half this amount.

Blue & Green Tomorrow caught up with the people behind it to find out more.

What problem is Wedmore uniquely solving?

The plant will save 450 tonnes of CO2 per annum; but do so in a way that allows members to defray increasing energy cost and support local people suffering fuel poverty through grant provision.

Why do you do what you do? What are your drivers or inspirations?

We believe in community action. This project has already made a difference by raising awareness, but now on a sunny November morning it is pumping about 600 kilowatts (kW) into the village grid; that’s enough to power about 200 kettles.

This is tangible, viable action on a scale that matches local demand. Wedmore Green Group has a great track record for getting things done.

Why should people invest in the company, either through Ethex or direct?  And what will investors get out of it?

Our members invest for all sorts of reasons.  Most support renewable energy; but most also expect to get a fair return on their capital and we are projecting a 5% return rising in later years. Many are persuaded by the Enterprise Investment Scheme tax incentives and some of our pioneer investors have already had refunds from HMRC.

Some see this as a way of buying a small part of a PV system that they can not afford to install at home. We are delighted that some of our local labour teams that helped us build the plant are ploughing their pay into shares.

With talk of 10% hikes in energy prices, some will see this as a positive way of defraying increasing cost, because if wholesale electricity prices rise then the profit of their co-operative will rise, too. This investment allows members to hedge against energy price rises, wherever they live.

Some members like to support local causes; because we are not supporting any head office cost or paid directors we can divert bottom line profit to a grant fund and we project raising over £600,000 during the 27-year life of the project for local grant support, without compromising members interest payments.

To hear from investors who have already pledged money towards the project, click here.

What will the investment help you to do?

The plant was commissioned in the last week; but we are relying on bridging finance from Community Power Ltd. Members joining us at this late stage will be cancelling that loan and freeing up capital that Community Power Ltd need to employ in other local projects.

If you’re interested in investing in Wedmore, you can do so through Ethex. The current share offer closes on November 9 2013.

Further reading:

Why I invested in Wedmore

‘Positive’ investment worth £1.6bn in the UK

Government needs clear vision for UK community energy, says Green Alliance

Community energy: what you need to know

Harnessing the power of a community

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