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Rush of community energy share offers launch to access EIS tax relief window before closing end November

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Recent changes to the third reading of the Finance Bill have pushed many community energy organisations to launch sooner rather than later to take advantage of EIS tax relief while still available to their investors.

This has triggered a surge in community energy share offers launching on Ethex, the positive investment and savings platform, including Bristol Energy Cooperative, Wolverton Community Energy (Milton Keynes), and Meadow Blue Community Energy (Merston, West Sussex) already open to investors with Bath and West Community Energy (BWCE), Wiltshire Wildlife Community Energy (WWCE) (Wroughton, Wiltshire), Nottinghamshire Community Energy (Colton Basset) coming on-line tomorrow (Wednesday 5 November). The offers launching tomorrow are all supported by Mongoose Energy.

Lisa Ashford, Chief Executive of Ethex, says: “We would like to see people investing in the wide range of community renewable schemes Ethex has listed in November to show the groundswell of support for the community energy sector in the UK.”

Jan-Willem Bode, CEO of Mongoose Energy says: “Since we launched this year we’ve helped communities from across the UK raise over £25 million for 27 such projects. The Treasury may have made a surprise announcement at the end of last month, but the cooperatives that are in a position to launch have reacted fantastically. And this means there has never been a better time to invest in these ethical-energy projects, be it to support your local area, to build your retirement fund, invest for your children, or simply buy an ethical Christmas gift for a relative.”

A sudden, and unannounced, change to the third reading of the Finance Bill at the end of October will have a large impact on community energy schemes in the UK. The Treasury has stated that community energy projects will be excluded from the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) tax reliefs as soon as the 30th November 2015.

They have further stated that community energy schemes will be excluded from Social Investment Tax Relief (or SITR), reversing the Government’s previous statement in March 2015.  This leaves a small window of opportunity for community energy organisations to raise investment for projects in the pipeline under EIS and SEIS tax reliefs (see map of live community share offers in the UK below).

Coupled with previous changes to planning law and proposed reduction to the Feed-in Tariffs, these changes will put strains on the community energy sector. This is despite £36 million invested in 75 community energy schemes in the last year (see Ethex’s Positive Investing Report 2015, page 13), which leverages new investment into renewable energy. Most investment into community renewables comes from local people who want to back renewable energy schemes in their area and see the community benefit.

Community energy schemes result in an extraordinary range of community benefits beyond reduction of carbon emissions: support for fuel poverty, free energy provision in schools, improvements to community buildings, computers for low income schools, improving wildlife areas and providing local healthcare services.

The change in legislation applies to community energy organisations that are registered as community benefit societies (IPSs) or community interest companies (CICs) and have community benefit embedded in their rules or articles of association. These community benefits had, until now, been supported by individual investors encouraged by the 30% tax relief. Many of these schemes may not go ahead and the carbon reduction and all the community benefits lost.

This policy change has not been consulted on and goes back on previous promises to allow community energy schemes to benefit from the new Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR). And, what’s more, there hasn’t been adequate warning of the closure of the current tax relief mechanisms, which undermines investment in the sector.

Community energy schemes are currently eligible for Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) relief. This was to be removed but a six-month transition period SITR was to be permitted in order to allow all schemes to make advance applications for relief to HMRC and then to have time to complete their offers. However, EIS and SEIS relief is now to be withdrawn with no prospect of SITR available.

It’s hard to understand Treasury’s rationale for the switch. Community energy raised £36m last year and has been the fastest growing area of community investment. That would have cost £11 million in tax relief. But even then that has to be balanced against jobs created, VAT, income tax and National Insurance collected, and carbon saved.

The Community Energy England survey, published in October, found that 38 of the community energy groups surveyed had received £7.4 million in Feed-in Tariff subsidies since the scheme began in 2010, which has brought in £50 million of private investment and generated £45 million for local economies. The tax reliefs are important to community energy projects as the risks are often higher than commercial projects as returns to investors are capped to maximise the community benefit they generate.

Emma Bridge CEO of Community Energy England says: “Community energy enables people to take greater control over how energy is generated as well as ensuring wider benefits are fed back to the local area. Schemes offer a range of benefits from reducing energy bills and developing skills to generating revenue in the local economy, as well as the more obvious benefit of encouraging the production of cleaner energy.”

Given the potential that community investment has shown to deliver strong social and environmental benefit to society, at little or no cost to the tax payer, it is surprising that Government shows so little inclination to support it. There has been no prior warning of this policy change and no explanation of why the government has decided to take this step.

One hundred and fourteen organisations – including Ethex and Community Energy England – have now signed a letter to the Chancellor, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP to ask him to reconsider the proposed amendments to the Finance Bill. This is perhaps the largest mobilization of community energy groups yet.

Energy

7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption

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Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

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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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