Co-operative ownership of renewable energy is not new. In Denmark 23% of the country’s energy supply comes from 3,000 wind turbines owned by approximately 150,000 co-operative members. In 1997, Baywind in Cumbria became the first community owned renewable installation in the UK. It has been paying out interest to members on an annual basis ever since. As a result, Baywind was inundated with questions from other community groups wanting to do the same thing and this led to the creation of Energy4All in 2002. Since then Energy4All has helped to set up 7 wind co-operatives in the UK with over 6,000 members. This has led to communities all over the UK starting to set up other wind, hydropower and solar co-operatives along similar lines to these original wind co-ops.
Co-operatives are democratic structures with the legal ability to raise money directly from members of the public. With a one member one vote system and a board elected from the membership, they offer a fair and transparent way to operate a community owned renewable energy business. They also have the power to prioritise investment from the local area, ensuring that as much as possible, financial benefits from renewable energy are felt by people in the locality. They are registered and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).
The introduction of Feed in Tariffs (FIT) in April 2010 has started to create more financially viable opportunities for communities to own a range of renewable energy installations at medium scale.
An Industrial and Provident Society is a legal form providing the structure of a co-operative. It is owned by and operated for the benefit of its members and/or the community. Members elect directors and each member has one vote in a members’ meeting regardless of the number of shares held. Members are protected by limited liability and are only obliged to contribute the initial cost of their shares. An Industrial and Provident Society is governed by Rules, largely in standard form, which are approved by and registered with the Financial Services Authority. A copy of Leominster Community Solar Co-operative’s Rules is available from the downloads sectin of this website or by application to the Co-operative.