Anne Chapman, director MORE Renewables Ltd
Morecambe Bay Community Renewables was the first community energy group in the North West to do a solar PV project.
Set up in 2011 by a group of Lancaster residents we are a community benefit society that now owns 90 kWp of solar PV at the Lancaster Co-housing site at Halton, just outside Lancaster and 10 kWp of solar PV and a small solar thermal system at the Lancaster Boys and Girls club.
We have raised the capital for these projects from three community share offers. Community shares are withdrawable share capital in societies and offers of them do not fall under all the regulations that apply to offers of company shares, so can be done at much lower cost. Investors become members of the society, and have one vote each (regardless of how much they have invested) at AGMs. In return for their investment our members receive interest on their shares, and when they need it can apply to withdraw their investment, though the society is not obliged to pay it to them if it does not have the funds to do so at that time. Unlike most societies, our rules (equivalent to a constitution) say that at least one quarter of what we pay our in share interest must be given to projects that promote sustainable development in the Morecambe Bay area.
Our aim from the start was to support organisations that help people to reduce their energy use and in the last few years we have given grants to Green Rose CIC for their advice service to householders. I will talk about our projects, raising funds from community share offers and the challenges for community energy.