Aldgate Solar Power (ASP), the first community energy co-operative in the City of London, has reached an exciting milestone by successfully raising £11,500 from the local community to bring its first solar energy project into community ownership.
ASP is a Community Benefit Society launched in July 2020, supported by Repowering London, a social enterprise that specialises in co-creating and enabling community energy projects.
They do so by empowering communities to fund, install and manage their own clean, local energy.
ASP’s primary goal is to develop community-owned renewable energy projects in the Aldgate area, delivering multiple benefits; contributing to the fight against climate change, democratising the energy system, and building social cohesion.
In April 2022, ASP installed 36.8 kWp of solar energy on the roof of Middlesex Street Estate, in the Portsoken Ward.
The project will save up to seven tonnes of carbon emissions every year, the equivalent of the emissions produced by 11 households. It will also reduce the estate’s energy bills and build a stronger, more resilient community in the Aldgate area through a Community Fund of more than £10,000 that will support local initiatives over the lifetime of the project.
Unfortunately, the project cannot lower residents’ energy bills directly because the current energy market regulation does not allow co-operatives and businesses to supply energy directly to local people if they do not have an electricity provider license.
Repowering London wants to change this, which is why it is campaigning as part of a broad coalition of organisations for a Local Electricity Bill that would give electricity generators, such as local co-operatives and businesses, the right to become local suppliers in a financially viable way.
Grants covered 76 percent of the £46,710 total cost of the project, and the rest was to be raised from the local community to bring the project into community ownership.
This is what ASP did in July 2022 by opening a community share offer to raise the remaining £11,300, and it was a resounding success. Investment started at £100 per investor (or £50 for City of London residents under 25 or on benefits) and was capped at £1,300 to ensure that more people could get involved.
Those living on or around the estate also had the option to become a non-investor member by purchasing a single share for £1. This opportunity is still open to any interested members of the community with the desire to shape the project’s present and future.
ASP was able to close the offer after only a few weeks, exceeding the target ahead of schedule thanks to the dedication of its directors and volunteers and the enthusiasm shown by the local community.
The project now has 34 members, all with an equal say in how the project is run and how its income is distributed.
The project income will come from the sale of electricity to the City of London, which will use it to power communal areas of the estate. The profits generated will be used to provide on average an annual 3 percent interest to the investors over the 20-year project lifetime, pay for operations and maintenance, and will be fed into the Community Fund.
In the coming months ASP will be supporting the local community in various ways. The most critical support in the midst of the energy and cost-of-living crisis will come in the form of free winter energy support workshops where community members receive tips on how to save money on their bills.
They will also be signposted to all available support services to help those struggling to pay or worried about the steep rise in energy bills.
There will also be other opportunities for residents to learn more about solar energy and gain skills and experience in energy projects.
ASP will be organising community events such as solar panel making workshops where anyone can learn about the basics of solar technology and community solar co-operatives, and work in a team to build solar-powered phone chargers.
In the longer term, ASP plans to develop new community-owned solar projects across the Aldgate area, expanding the benefits of community-owned green energy to even more people living and working in the area.
The co-operative has already secured funding to explore the solar potential of four new sites.
City of London residents can get involved in various ways:
– Become a non-investor member for £1 if you live in the borough (every member has an equal vote deciding how ASP is run and what they do)
– Get involved as a volunteer
– Attend ASP community events
– Help ASP spread the word in the local community and/or online (Twitter @aldgatesolar, Facebook or Instagram @aldgatesolarpower)
Get in touch with Manuel, ASP’s Community Champion, at [email protected] or call 07387895058.
Find out more about Aldgate Solar Power here and join the movement for a greener and fairer energy system that works for people and the planet.