Scaling up Community Energy: a how-to Guide

First Published by Brighton Energy Co-op by Will Cottrell

We’ve done well. Really well. The 40-odd energy coops that exist across the country have so far raised £18m quid for spanking new renewable installations. In 2013 131 new energy coops were registered, so we’re looking forward to seeing things grow hugely in 2014. Exciting times.

Reclaiming the Energy Sector

And yet while this is a fantastic achievement, things need to be bigger still. A few years back I went to an imaginatively-titled seminar ‘Reclaiming the Energy Sector’. It was – and is – a great aspiration. Yet what it really showed to me was that – for communities to really grab the energy sector from the behemoths that currently own it – we need to get much, much larger.

How could that happen? The biggest energy coop in the country provides an instructive example. Spread across 30 acres, Westmill Solar Coop raised £16m in 2011 to take ownership of a 20,000 solar panel (5MW) installation. Westmill has over 1600 members and is the world’s largest community-owned solar farm: Brilliant. But an important aspect of Westmill is that their solar park was already built. A private developer did the legwork, the community took ownership a year after it had been plugged in.
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