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LAMBETH
COMMUNITY
SOLAR

Lambeth Community Solar FAQs

Lambeth Community Solar Limited is a registered Community Benefit Society (more commonly known as co-operative), founded on 5th July 2018. Lambeth Community Solar is Lambeth’s first borough-wide energy co-op. Its aim is to install community-owned solar panels on the roofs of the borough, and use the profits to benefit the community via projects to reduce energy bills, provide opportunities for locals and raise awareness around environmental and energy issues. 

Lambeth Community Solar is supported by Repowering London a not for profit organisation that has established several community-owned solar projects in Brixton, Hackney, Vauxhall and North Kensington. Repowering London is supporting the development of Lambeth Community Solar with community engagement, financial modelling, technical advice and project management.

We are launching the first phase of Lambeth Community Solar: installing 145 kW of solar panels on the roofs of The Norwood and The Elmgreen schools in October 2019. In September, we will launch a community share offer to raise the £137,000 needed to purchase and install the panels.

A community benefit society is run primarily for the benefit of the community at large, rather than just for members of the society (that would be a co-operative society). This means that it must have an overarching community purpose that reaches beyond its membership. Although a community benefit society has the power to pay interest on members’ share capital, it cannot distribute surpluses to members in the form of dividends. 

Lambeth Community Solar is a community group run by a very diverse group of volunteers managed day to day by Repowering, from Lambeth and London, who are passionate about renewable energy and want to make a difference in the fight against climate change. Anyone is welcome to join the volunteers group, the more we are the more we can do!  

Repowering London has developed Lambeth Community Solar and has received funding from the Esmée Fairband Foundation as well as the London Community Energy Fund for the technical design of the project. However, the project involves other costs to Repowering such as operations, communication, managing share offer and events. To recover some of these costs, £10,000 from the profits of this 20-year project will go back to Repowering.   

BENEFITS

  • The project will create an opportunity for Lambeth residents to invest in clean energy in their local area with an average return on investment of 3%. Anyone with a UK bank account can invest from £100, Lambeth residents under 25 and on benefits can invest from £50.
  • The project will create a Community Fund to be spent on benefiting the schools and the surrounding community
  • All members of LCS have a say on important matters, including how the Community Fund should be spent. To ensure everyone can participate, you can also become a member for £1. One member = One vote.
  • The schools will benefit from reduced energy bills: we will sell them the clean electricity from the solar panels at a discounted price. We estimate their savings to be of £27,000 over the projects’ lifetime.
  • The project will create a Community Fund to be spent on benefiting the schools and the surrounding community

The community fund is estimated to be £33,000 over the 20-year period.  An average of £1,650 will be available each year. This is subject to confirmation of costs and installation taking place by October 2019. Should the installation be delayed we will need to revise the financial model. However, we are confident that we will maintain significant community benefits for the estate, including a community fund. 

This first project will save 31 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, that’s what 3500 trees take out of the atmosphere over the same period!  

As things stand, Lambeth Community Solar is not able to install and supply electricity to individual homes due to Government regulations and legal requirements. That’s why we are looking for schools, leisure centres, doctor surgeries, hospitals… Let us know if you have any ideas!  

COSTS

We’re installing 145.31 kW in total, 62.15 kW on The Elmgreen school and 83.16 kW on The Norwood school. The panels and the installation by Ecolution, our installer, will cost in total £137,000.

The funds to pay for the solar panels and its installation is raised collectively through a community share offer. As a shareholder you would receive an annual return on your investment. Community share offers across the country have raised millions of pounds that has paid for the installation of solar panels and wind farms. 

The project is at no cost to you as a Lambeth resident. However, you may choose to invest in the project and become a member of Lambeth Community Solar. You may also choose to become a non-investor member of Lambeth Community Solar with a nominal membership fee of £1.  

FINANCES

Our profit come from the sale of electricity to the schools, the sale of the surplus to the grid, and a government subsidy for generating green electricity called Feed-In-Tariff. 

Costs involved include:  

  • Meeting ongoing maintenance costs such as insurance, electricity meter operations and equipment replacement;
  • Administrative costs related to shareholders, organizing Annual General Meetings, communications with stakeholders and the community.
  • Providing an annual return to shareholders (to be decided by the board of Directors of Lambeth Community Solar and agreed at the AGM)
  • Surplus income generated will be ring-fenced for the Community Fund.  

As a Community Benefit Society, Lambeth Community Solar and its members will own the panels. Community benefit societies are based on democratic principles of ‘one member one vote’ where each member has one vote no matter how much you invest.  

All investors of Lambeth Community Solar automatically become members of the co-op, but you can also become a co-op member with a £1 membership which will give you the same power as an investor. This is to ensure everyone can participate.  

Once a year the Society will hold its Annual General Meeting at which members will decide how to spend the annual income and allocate the profits. This has to be in line with Society’s objectives detailed earlier.  

Directors do the project management during the year.  

SHARES

Community shares are ‘withdrawable shares’ which can only be issued by co-operatives or community benefit societies. Co-operative societies are for the mutual benefit of their members, whereas community benefit societies are for the broader benefit of the whole community. A withdrawable share can be withdrawn from investment, subject to the terms and conditions of the society concerned.  

If you want to learn more, visit the Co-operatives UK website.  

No. Every year, the members will receive their interests and be asked if they would like to withdraw their shares. Members’ share capital will be repaid every year over the 20 year period subject to financial performance and available funds.

You will receive your share interest and eventually your capital repayment every year on your bank account. You can choose to donate your interests to the Community Fund if you wish to do so.   

Lambeth Community Solar relies on the majority of our investors keeping their share in the project for 20 years. Captial is expected to be returned to investors over time (@ 5% a year).

Earlier full withdrawals of capital may be requested but it will be at the board’s discretion whether to approve these requests, based on the financial performance of the co-op. The project has smaller reserves during the first 10 years of the project, full withdrawal of capital will be more difficult during this period.

RISKS

The sale of community shares is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, because investors are deemed to be investing for social returns, not financial gain. This is good news for community ventures, which would otherwise face prohibitively expensive regulations when marketing community shares. But it comes at a cost to community investors, who have no right of complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service and cannot apply to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. 

Community shares are more risky than keeping your money in a savings account with a bank or building society, but we believe Lambeth Community Solar is a relatively secure investment as almost 50% of its income streams are derived from the Feed-in Tariff, a programme implemented and guaranteed by the UK Government for 20 years. Nonetheless as with any project there are inevitably a range of risks which you should consider.  

We estimate that the project will provide an expected 3% average annual interest to shareholders over its lifetime, but this return on investment is not guaranteed. Typically, the returns are lower at the beginning of the project and higher at the end. The payment of interest in each year is not guaranteed and subject to approval by the Directors. The Directors may decide not to provide a return in Year 1 of operation to allow LCS to strengthen its finances before distributions to investors and the community fund are made 

TECHNICAL

Yes! If there is enough sun to grow vegetables, there is enough to make solar energy. Previous Repowering projects like Brixton Energy Solar 1, Solar 2 and Solar 3 have successfully generated their own electricity, and solar power is becoming increasingly popular across the country. 

Phase 1 of Lambeth Community Solar will be to install 145kW of solar panels on The Elmgreen and The Norwood schools.  

We estimate around one month to complete installation for both schools.  

Panels will potentially last several decades.  The panels lose 0.5% efficiency per year – so they will be still at least 90% efficient after 20 years when the project comes to an end.  At the end of the 20-year project the ownership of the panels can transfer from Lambeth Community Solar to the schools.  They can remain on roofs and keep generating electricity for free to the schools.  

We will be working a company called Ecolution to install the solar panels on the schools roof in October mid-term.  

Repowering London will be responsible for the operations and maintenance of the solar panels. The solar panels are relatively maintenance free. Provision for any maintenance and insurance is included within the Lambeth Community Solar financial model. The schools will continue to be responsible for roof maintenance.

Judging by past projects we anticipate access once a year to check all is in functioning order. No other regular maintenance is expected to be required.  Panels have built in monitoring equipment which greatly reduce the need for access.  Access will only be required in the unlikely event of a malfunction.  

Panels typically come with a 10-year warranty and will be insured by Lambeth Community Solar so any costs can be recovered. We are installing panels on roofs that have been recently renewed so as to avoid future potential costs of removing, reinstalling and repairing equipment.   

CoEnergy is the software that Repowering use to manage it’s investments

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