Jim Orr: Shares can save local renewables from cuts

EDINBURGH co-op gives us all chance to invest in an exciting, ethical project, writes Jim Orr

Edinburgh Community Solar Co-op are looking to raise £1.4 million to mount solar panels on 25 council buildings across the city. Picture: Contributed

The viability of new small renewable energy projects across the UK was hit badly in August with the announcement of significant imminent cuts to “feed in tariffs” – the UK government payments to incentivise small clean energy projects.

Unfortunately, there is no sign that the UK government is minded to do anything to protect and support them. There is speculation that the planned Applecross Community Hydro scheme in the Highlands, pre-accredited to preserve favourable tariff rates, will be the last of its kind for some time.

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But there is some good news for those who want to invest in and support solar projects in Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Community Solar Co-op share issue was launched to great acclaim in September and they are looking to raise £1.4 million to mount solar panels on 25 council buildings across the city and generate up to 1.5mW. The project is pre-accredited to earn more attractive tariffs and dividends are budgeted to be payable at rates of up to 5 per cent year. Also a Community Benefit Fund will be made available to host buildings from surplus profits in order to make them more sustainable. The benefits could extend into other areas of the community, with the emphasis on sustainability.

Information screens will be installed in the host buildings so that users will be able to monitor energy generation and usage – quite an exciting prospect for schoolchildren. In fact children under 16 can have shares purchased for them by parents and grandparents, providing an opportunity for an ethical Christmas present.

It is hoped that the co-op will thrive and perhaps branch out into other renewable energy sectors or insulation schemes. There are risks to any share offer and anyone signing up before the 1 December deadline should read the prospectus carefully and consider taking financial advice. But like the ad campaign says, “This is Edinburgh”. We do things well here. So let’s work together to cut carbon and pollution, and help communities.

• Jim Orr is independent councillor in Edinburgh