Community Energy Projects can benefit from £350,000 M&S fund

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For the second year running, Marks & Spencer (M&S) Energy have launched their Community Energy Fund. Community energy projects and technologies can benefit from the fund, with up to £350,000 available to support them. Any not for profit organisation is eligible to apply, as long as they use renewable energy to benefit their community.

Judges are looking for innovative projects that are in-touch with the local community’s needs, whatever they may be. Any not for profit organisation can get involved, whether a community energy group, sports club, library, amateur dramatic society, village hall or school.

Jonathan Hazeldine, Head of M&S Energy, said, “It’s been fantastic to see so many innovative and inspirational projects benefit from the 2015 M&S Energy Community Energy Fund. We’re excited to begin search for more groups who can really make a difference to their local communities.  

“As a 100% green energy provider, supporting those who share our vision of a sustainable future through renewable energy is really important to our company, our customers and our colleagues.”

Following the initial application and shortlisting process the winners will be decided by public vote giving customers and community members the opportunity to get involved with the initiative and select the project they believe will offer the greatest benefit.

Last year’s fund saw 246 applications from a wide variety of groups looking to make a difference and 132 making the shortlist! After a fierce public vote, with over 51,000 votes cast, 26 projects won funding. The projects touch communities across Britain, from the Outer Hebrides (Comunn Eachdraidh Nis Community Hub) to Cornwall (Hayle Outdoor Swimming Pool) and everywhere in between.

As one of last year’s winners, Harry’s Hydrotherapy Pool in Frome, has shown how the funding can make a real difference. The organisation, which aims to relieve sickness and improve quality of life for those with sensory learning or profound multiple difficulties, used the money to install solar panels to warm its specially adapted pool and is forecast to save up to £2,000 a year in heating bills.

Another winner was Hartlepower Community Interest Company (CIC), who won £40,000 of funding to create Hartlepool’s first solar school.

Peter Gowland, from Harlepower CIC, said: “The M&S Energy Community Energy Fund initiative couldn’t have come at a better time for Hartlepool CIC. Our experience of the competition was really positive and we would like to warmly thank the company for having the vision to initiate such a scheme, which in our case inspired other schools – and not just in Hartlepool – to want to go solar.”

The M&S Energy Community Energy Fund is split into two parts. Regional funding will be awarded for projects across Great Britain that require a maximum of £12,500, determined by the public vote, and a judges’ prize of £20,000 will be awarded to the most innovative or inspiring projects selected from those that do not win through the public vote.

Applications are now open and will close on 31st May.  Applicants will be shortlisted by a panel including M&S, SSE, Energyshare and an independent judge, projects will be considered based upon their social and environmental impact and on meeting a variety of criteria. That includes: having a clear business case that gives value for money, an engaged and supportive community, and a measurable community benefit

The public vote will open on 5th September and closes on 9th October. Full details on how to enter are available at M&S Energy’s website.