High demand for low cost electricity from a host of third sector organisations has prompted Northern Ireland’s only solar energy co-operative to launch a second major Community Share offer.
Almost 40 community organisations have expressed an interest in this ambitious solar energy project that will see their electricity bills slashed in half.
Northern Ireland Community Energy (NICE) today (April 25) launched NICE2, its second community share offer to raise £130,000, which will enable them to install solar panels free of charge for up to ten charitable and community organisations.
Last year NICE – Northern Ireland’s only solar energy co-operative – raised an impressive £150,000 with its first community share issue enabling them to install solar panels to benefit 13 organisations.
One of those organisations is the Mornington Community project, hosting today’s launch. It is a member of the co-operative and benefited from free solar panels last year.
Heather Carey, Board member of the Mornington Community project, said: “As Mornington continues to grow and expand, the benefits of reduced energy costs means the organisation is able to save and continue to invest in the people of the Lower Ormeau now and for years to come.”
NICE Director Karen Arbuckle said the co-operative, which was launched almost exactly a year ago, has made a big impact in the third sector.
She added: “Thirty seven organisations have expressed an interest this time round. Because we were able to achieve so much last year it has given us the incentive to go ahead with another project. There is huge demand for solar panels but unfortunately we won’t be able to facilitate everybody.”
The community share enables the public to invest in the project with a minimum purchase of 250 shares and a maximum of 20,000 shares at £1 each. NICE received pledges of around £20,000 before the new share offer was even launched. The offer will close on May 31 2016
NICE is supported by Co-operative Alternatives, which was commissioned by the Building Change Trust to run its Community Shares, Ready! pilot project to increase awareness of Community Shares in Northern Ireland.
Tiziana O’Hara of Co-operative Alternatives said: “NICE is a perfect example of how community shares can deliver clear benefits by helping the local economy, the environment and encouraging community action. The fact that it is launching a second share offer shows that there is a real demand for alternative sources of energy and that can be achieved by alternative ways of raising the necessary capital.”
Nigel McKinney, Building Change Trust Director of Operations, said: “The Building Change Trust is committed to developing and testing out new forms of Social Finance and encouraging Social Innovation in Northern Ireland, we invested in NI Community energy ourselves and are excited to see it move into this new stage of its development.
“This type of community buy-in and investment has been a big success in other parts of the UK and has really taken off here in Northern Ireland. We’re excited to see the further development of NI Community Energy, as well as the Community Shares project, throughout 2016 and beyond”.
NICE is run by a group of volunteers dedicated to renewable energy and co-operative models. The co-operative delivers a return of approximately 4% to its investors as well as investing in a community fund providing for energy efficiency projects to tackle fuel poverty in Northern Ireland.
Karen Arbuckle added: “We are all unpaid volunteers with a belief in renewable forms of energy. Northern Ireland is very far behind the UK and Europe where co-operatives like NICE are more common. We are only the second renewable energy co-operative in Northern Ireland along with Drumlin Wind Energy.
“Our work is all about empowering communities to become economically more sustainable while reducing energy costs and consumption to help stop climate change. We would like Northern Ireland to have more co-operative initiatives like ours and make renewables the norm. There is no reason why it can’t be the case here.”
For information on how to either invest or express an interest in the scheme go to: www.nicommunityenergy.org