Revolving loan fund for community renewable energy projects

Originalgreen-top-graphic Cornwall Council (UK) has launched a EUR 1.2 million loan fund to help community groups to build renewable energy installations in their local area.

As initial construction costs for renewable energy schemes are high, but pay for themselves over a short period of time, the Revolving Loan Fund aims to provide groups with access to capital funds.

The Council’s Green Cornwall programme has made a loan facility available to The Low Carbon Society (TLCS) who will then make council approved loans to applicant community groups.

Working in partnership with Kabin and Community Energy Plus, The Low Carbon Society has been working with the Council to develop a viable and sustainable fund - the first of its kind for a local authority.

“Renewable energy has the ability to not only decarbonise energy, but provide real community benefits,” said Steve Ford, Cornwall Council’s Green Cornwall Programme Manager. “Profits generated as a result of schemes which have received funding from the Revolving Loan Fund will stay with the community, rather than go to the shareholders of commercial businesses based outside of Cornwall. And as renewable energy is an infinite resource, these schemes will generate income for communities for generations to come.”

One local group who will be looking to benefit from the fund is Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN). The not-for-profit co-operative has over 700 members and has set itself a target of generating 30% of Wadebridge’s electricity needs from local renewable energy schemes by 2015.

“The opportunities arising from renewable energy schemes are very obvious and the benefits wide ranging, but it is surprising how little is being used to benefit local communities,” said Stephen Frankel, chair of WREN.

“At present, most renewable energy schemes are owned by commercial businesses, but a big advantage of community ownership means that people will see the benefits. The rising cost of fuel bills is something we all have to take seriously.

Co-operative development agency Kabin has been working with communities across Cornwall to help deliver renewable energy schemes.

“Cornwall has a history of exporting our skills, resources and the fruits of our labour whilst retaining little economic benefit. We have excellent natural resources and it seems fair that the people of Cornwall should share in the benefits,” said Paul Martin, Enterprise Advisor from Kabin.

“The total spent in the Duchy on energy is £1.2 billion each year and at least 98% of this spend leaves the Duchy. Given that Cornwall has some of the best natural resources in terms of wind, sun, hydro and heat energy it seems only fair that a greater proportion of the economic benefit from these resources is retained in Cornwall.

“This revolving loan fund is a key element to enable communities to hold energy assets in common ownership. At Kabin we are really excited that Cornwall Council shares our goal to retain economic benefits in Cornwall through community ownership of renewable energy assets”

Also at the forefront of this work is Cornish energy charity Community Energy Plus, based at Tolvaddon near Pool.

Energy advisor Neil Farrington said; “We are currently working with 15 community energy co-operatives across Cornwall with more emerging every few weeks. This fund will offer communities the opportunity to take advantage of a sustainable low carbon future and the environmental, economic and social benefits that can be secured for generations to come.”

Other articles:

Find out more about the Green Cornwall Revolving Loan Fund

KredEx’s national revolving loan fund

Renewable Energy Cooperatives