Generation Community

Generation Community: Community energy for social impact

United KingdomUK wide, United Kingdom
Year Founded:
2011
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Gen Community develops, finances and manages community owned renewable energy projects in low income areas. Our projects directly combat fuel poverty & climate change through reduced energy bills for fuel poor homes, whilst surpluses from the solar electricity is used to support local social needs.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if energy infrastructure could be locally owned to empower local communities?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The problem is that 10.4% of households in the UK are in fuel poverty (DECC 2015). Fuel poverty is where household energy costs lead to residual household incomes less than the official poverty line. It affects a wide demographic, affecting people's physical and mental well being, such as respiratory diseases, winter deaths, low school grades and poor emotional health. Age UK estimates that cold homes cost the NHS £1.3 billion a year.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Fuel poverty is caused by the combination of: - low household incomes - poorly insulated & designed housing - high energy prices - low understanding of energy and how to efficiently use it & purchase it Community renewable energy projects are unique in tackling these causes as they can simultaneously generate low cost, low carbon electricity & heat, whilst engaging & educating people on how to save and use energy efficiently. Specifics: Solar PV is installed on low income homes at no cost to the household, the capital is bridge financed through social impact funds and the community buys the "solar assets" through a community share offer. The projects are typically developed with councils targeting their social housing estates.

Awards

Renewable Energy Association "Community Energy Award 2014"
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Newport solar project: in 2012 we put together our first community share offer, raising £450,000, to install solar PV systems on 74 low income privately owned/rented homes in Newport, South Wales. Newport has one of the highest deprivation and fuel poverty rates in Europe. The project's revenue is from the generation of low carbon electricity which is sold to the grid and receives a tariff payment as part of the UK's low carbon targets. This allowed us to provide the electricity at no cost to the householders. Typically the solar PV systems are generating 35-40% of each homes annual electric requirements, equating to an electricity saving £150-£180 per year. The surplus project revenue funds energy advice community workshops.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

To date the Newport project has collectively saved low income homes over £35,000 in electricity bills. In addition we have been working with the NEA (the UK national fuel poverty charity) to run community workshops which have helped teach practical ways to save energy and money, for example using a thermostat, or making sure people can read an energy bill and not pay too much. These have been held at "Community House" which is in a high deprivation area with a large Muslim population. We are currently working with two Councils (Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Yorkshire & Carmarthenshire County Council, Wales), delivering 8MW of solar PV across social housing estates and council run schools. The energy savings for the schools helps them redirect budgets for improved educational facilities, whilst the project surplus income is being used to create community governed social funds.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Over the next 3 years we aim to grow our existing council projects, primarily replicating the model across other forms of energy infrastructure, including district heating schemes and energy efficiency wraps for homes. The key to these technology choices is that they can be financed without central government mechanisms, providing a more stable platform. In addition, we are developing an affordable housing model to offer shared ownership via a community structure. This will help us expand as a replicable redevelopment model for low income neighborhoods.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We have raised £500,000 of development capital to commercialise and scale our community energy model for local authorities. We aim to grow organically, based on our current project pipeline which should equate to project fee income of circa £450,000-£500,000 over the next 12 months. Based on our current running costs we should achieve a modest profit over the next 12/18 months. Projects are funded from institutional debt & community equity.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

To date, although there are several community energy projects across the UK, none of them are working at scale with local authorities designing projects to maximise community benefit. Empower Community offers a similar structure, however the funding is only institutional which we believe detracts from the community engagement as the community is unable to genuinely participate in the project. We believe local financial participation, via community shares or bonds is a key way to increasing transparency and local trust in a project.
Team

Founding Story

The concept of Gen Community evolved during my Masters of Engineering, when I was helping a small farm and community group in Cornwall as a hobby project. The farm was an attractive wind site, with several "city investors" wanting to rent the land and build their own project. However the community payments offered were very limited and did not offer good value to the community. I helped the group secure some development grants by proving the wind resource and we managed to raise a community share offer to build the turbine, retaining all the profits locally! The aha moment came when I could see how a community energy model could be scaled for other low income areas!

Team

Non-exec Chairman - James Alexander, previously co-founder of Zopa, Strategy Director at Egg, Partner at The Foundation and Trustee of RSPB, MBA from INSEAD Non-exec Director - Gareth Hughes, previously co-founder & director of Climate Change Capital where he raised $1.7bn for low carbon projects Director (FT) - Andy Heald, Co-founder of Gen Community and previously 13 years as Private Banker for Barclays Private Bank, MSc Environment, Energy & Economics from City University Director (PT) - Bill Sneyd, previously co-founder & COO of Homesun the UKs first rooftop solar company, sold to Aviva for £100m, MBA from INSEAD Director (FT) - James Mansfield - 1st class M.Eng Renewable Energy, Exeter University
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Email contact from Ashoka

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Co-founder & Director

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Affordable and Clean Energy, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

I have helped setup two separate community wind projects, where all the profits are reinvested into organic and sustainable farming initiatives.
This included project design, contract and finance negotiation, followed by share offer design and marketing. Led and supported a community share raising circa £400,000 of community investment. When I left University I spent my time consulting independently to a charitable land trust advising on renewable energy acquisitions.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Ignite - Social Impact Fund, Social Finance and British Gas. I also receive a lot of support from my family and girlfriend.

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