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‘The children see these solar panels every day. They see it as the norm now’



Investors have less than a month left to invest in energy co-op Gen Community’s latest share offer. The goal is to raise £880,000 to fund the installation of solar panel systems on 25 Staffordshire schools, with £400,000 of that already raised.

If successful, the project will save 7,329 tonnes of carbon dioxide and provide the schools with energy bill savings worth up to £2.8m over 20 years. Some 15,000 children will immediately benefit as a result.

The investment case is attractive, especially when compared to the average savings account or ISA. Investors are able to put between £500 and £150,000 into the project, for an annual projected return of 6.91%.

Those who claim the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) tax relief will get projected returns of 10.48%. Under an EIS scheme, investors can invest up to £1m each year and receive an initial 30% income tax relief. They will also be exempt from capital gains tax and inheritance tax.

Andy Heald, a former wealth manager in the City and now a director at Gen Community, is spearheading the Staffordshire Sunny Schools project.

Government policy will always be a risk when it comes to renewable energy investment, he says – but retrospective changes to the feed-in tariff subsidy scheme for solar photovoltaic (PV) are unlikely.

He continues, “From a project risk basis, you’ll want to see all the things in the project which you expect when installing PV on your home – warranties and insurance, and the correct sited installation. Administration of the project, and experience with projects when picking a project manager will mitigate risk.”

Pupils at Millfield Primary School, Staffordshire, watch the visual display unit linked to their school's solar PV system.

The project has been bolstered by a £200,000 secured loan from Pure Leapfrog, a charity that provides social investment to the community energy sector. The project is also featured on Ethex, an online marketplace for social investments.

Henry Exton is from the Friary School in Lichfield, a Staffordshire school that has taken the leap and become one of the first to install one of Gen Community’s solar PV systems on its roof.

He says that in his role as business manager, he had looked at solar technology previously but the school didn’t have the resources available to invest. That is, until Gen Community came along.

A few months after the installation of the panels, Exton says the school is already seeing tangible benefits, none more so than in its energy bills. To date, the PV system has generated 7,000 units of electricity, most of which will have been used on site. The Friary expects to slash around £5,000 of its annual bill.

But Exton adds that there is another benefit – less tangible, but equally vital: “Important as the financial savings are, it is just as important that we are reducing our carbon dioxide emissions and helping pupils to understand the potential of renewable energy as part of their educational experience.”

Exton’s plan is to take the solar message and integrate it into all parts of the curriculum – from maths to science, geography to philosophy.

At a recent event in Westminster hosted by Gen Community to promote the Staffordshire Sunny Schools project, he said, “It’s about more than numbers to me. The reason that I was very keen to go to our governing body and say we should do this was actually because of the impact it has on children.

That can sound a little bit naff, but it does. They see these panels every day. They see it as the norm now. Priory School has 200 panels on its roof. They expect to see that wherever they go.”

Inspiring the next generation of environmentally-conscious youngsters? Now that’s something to invest in.

Investment in Staffordshire Sunny Schools is open until April 30 2014. The share offer can be downloaded from the Gen Community website.

In accordance with the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, Blue & Green Communications Limited does not provide regulated investment services of any kind, and is not authorised to do so. Nothing in this article and all parts herein constitute or should be deemed to constitute advice, recommendation, or invitation or inducement to buy, sell, subscribe for or underwrite any investment of any kind. Any specific investment-related queries or concerns should be directed to a fully qualified financial adviser.

Further reading:

Solar co-operative seeks £880,000 for Staffordshire schools project

Four Staffordshire schools set to benefit from solar co-op project

Solar co-operative gives investors a share in Plymouth’s green future

Community Energy Strategy launched to help local renewables projects

Community energy: what you need to know


7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption



Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions |

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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Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis




Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey 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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