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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

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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Energy

What Should We Make of The Clean Growth Strategy?

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Clean Growth Strategy for green energy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By sdecoret | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/sdecoret

It was hardly surprising the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) was much anticipated by industry and environmentalists. After all, its publication was pushed back a couple of times. But with the document now in the public domain, and the Government having run a consultation on its content, what ultimately should we make of what’s perhaps one of the most important publications to come out of the Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in the past 12 months?

The starting point, inevitably, is to decide what the document is and isn’t. It is, certainly, a lengthy and considered direction-setter – not just for the Government, but for business and industry, and indeed for consumers. While much of the content was favourably received in terms of highlighting ways to ensure clean growth, critics – not unjustifiably – suggested it was long on pages but short on detailed and finite policy commitments, accompanied by clear timeframes for action.

A Strategy, Instead of a Plan

But should we really be surprised? The answer, in all honesty, is probably not really. BEIS ministers had made no secret of the fact they would be publishing a ‘strategy’ as opposed to a ‘plan,’ and that gave every indication the CGS would set a direction of travel and be largely aspirational. The Government had consulted on its content, and will likely respond to the consultation during the course of 2018. And that’s when we might see more defined policy commitments and timeframes from action.

The second criticism one might level at the CGS is that indicated the use of ‘flexibilities’ to achieve targets set in the carbon budgets – essentially using past results to offset more recent failings to keep pace with emissions targets. Claire Perry has since appeared in front of the BEIS Select Committee and insisted she would be personally disappointed if the UK used flexibilities to fill the shortfall in meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, but this is difficult ground for the Government. The Committee on Climate Change was critical of the proposed use of efficiencies, which would somewhat undermine ministers’ good intentions and commitment to clean growth – particularly set against November’s Budget, in which the Chancellor maintained the current carbon price floor (potentially giving a reprieve to coal) and introduced tax changes favourable to North Sea oil producers.

A 12 Month Green Energy Initiative with Real Teeth

But, there is much to appreciate and commend about the CGS. It fits into a 12-month narrative for BEIS ministers, in which they have clearly shown a commitment to clean growth, improving energy efficiency and cutting carbon emissions. Those 12 months have seen the launch of the Industrial Strategy – firstly in Green Paper form, which led to the launch of the Faraday Challenge, and then a White Paper in which clean growth was considered a ‘grand challenge’ for government. Throughout these publications – and indeed again with the CGS – the Government has shown itself to be an advocate of smart systems and demand response, including the development of battery technology.

Electrical Storage Development at Center of Broader Green Energy Push

While the Faraday Challenge is primarily focused on the development of batteries to support the proliferation of electric vehicles (which will support cuts to carbon emissions), it will also drive down technology costs, supporting the deployment of small and utility-scale storage that will fully harness the capability of renewables. Solar and wind made record contributions to UK electricity generation in 2017, and the development of storage capacity will help both reduce consumer costs and support decarbonisation.

The other thing the CGS showed us it that the Government is happy to be a disrupter in the energy market. The headline from the publication was the plans for legislation to empower Ofgem to cap the costs of Standard Variable Tariffs. This had been an aspiration of ministers for months, and there’s little doubt that driving down costs for consumers will be a trend within BEIS policy throughout 2018.

But the Government also seems happy to support disruption in the renewables market, as evidenced by the commitment (in the CGS) to more than half a billion pounds of investment in Pot 2 of Contracts for Difference (CfDs) – where the focus will be on emerging rather than established technologies.

This inevitably prompted ire from some within the industry, particularly proponents of solar, which is making an increasing contribution to the UK’s energy mix. But, again, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Since the subsidy cuts of 2015, ministers have given no indication or cause to think there will be public money afforded to solar development. Including solar within the CfD auction would have been a seismic shift in policy. And while ministers’ insistence in subsidy-free solar as the way forward has been shown to be based on a single project, we should expect that as costs continue to be driven down and solar makes record contributions to electricity generation, investment will follow – and there will ultimately be more subsidy-free solar farms, albeit perhaps not in 2018.

Meanwhile, by promoting emerging technologies like remote island wind, the Government appears to be favouring diversification and that it has a range of resources available to meet consumer demand. Perhaps more prescient than the decision to exclude established renewables from the CfD auction is the subsequent confirmation in the budget that Pot 2 of CfDs will be the last commitment of public money to renewable energy before 2025.

In short, we should view the CGS as a step in the right direction, albeit one the Government should be elaborating on in its consultation response. Its publication, coupled with the advancement this year of the Industrial Strategy indicates ministers are committed to the clean growth agenda. The question is now how the aspirations set out in the CGS – including the development of demand response capacity for the grid, and improving the energy efficiency of commercial and residential premises – will be realised.

It’s a step in the right direction. But, inevitably, there’s much more work to do.

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