BEC launches their community energy share issue
Sabine Hielscher writes: On Wednesday the 16th of May 2012, the Brighton Energy Coop launched their share invitation to the public at the Friends Meeting House in Brighton. It was fascinating to see how the team’s hard work had come together to finally arrive at this event. What struck me the most, sitting in the audience and watching the team present the project, was how much they have developed as a team since setting up the group in 2010.
Over the past year, I have been privileged to follow their journey of trying to set up a community-owned renewable energy project in Brighton, attending director’s meetings and public meetings. I witnessed the numerous challenges that had to be overcome during this journey, in particular the tenacity they had to demonstrate when having to postpone their first launch in November 2012 because of the sudden Government announcement of cuts to the feed-in-tariff.
This sudden announcement could have been the end of the project but this was not the case. After only two weeks of recovering from this setback, the team became active again: contributing to the feed-in-tariff consultation and receiving some of the LEAF funding (http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/pn12_002/pn12_002.aspx) – a project that has been successfully accomplished in April 2012.
Mastering the setbacks that have arisen throughout setting up a community owned renewable energy project was fascinating to observe, in particular witnessing the team’s constant persistence and determination in trying to reach this point. These experiences have made the team stronger which was clearly visible during the share launch. On the night, the audience raised some challenging questions about every aspect of the project such as enquiries into financial, legal, planning and social issues. The team members were able to answer all of them with a real confidence and credibility, making it easy for the audience to sign up to the project.
Although each team member brought a mix of skills and knowledge to the project, the past year involved a steep learning curve for all of them. The team had to engage with the multiple aspects of setting up a community owned renewable energy projects that are extremely diverse in their nature. This required the team to pick up skills quickly and competently through, for example, engaging with other groups, by visiting conferences and project sites, organising and facilitating seminars for groups to learn from each other’s experiences, and creating local links with people who have become early investors and sometimes even advisors for the team.
This determination has involved a lot of hard work and sleepless nights for the team members that will hopefully be paid off by installing the first community owned renewable system in Brighton within the next month. Their work will continue… seeing that the team members have gained the confidence to realise even more sustainable energy projects.
Fingers crossed that they will raise the money in time!