Marks & Spencer has launched a community energy fund to support community renewable energy projects across the UK.

The retailer’s energy subsidiary M&S Energy will provide up to £400,000 to help finance not-for-profit organisations intending to set-up renewable energy installations in order to benefit communities.

Individual projects will apply for the process and M&S Energy will whittle the applicants down to a shortlist that will be voted on by the general public, which M&S Energy said would allow local communities to vote for the project which would best benefit them.

Two national awards will be available of £40,000 and £20,000, while regional funding awards of up to £12,500 will be available across Great Britain. A judges’ prize of £15,000 will be granted to the project a judging panel deems to be the ‘most innovative or inspiring’ project.

The judging panel will comprise representatives from M&S Energy and utility SSE and entries will be judged on their business case, engagement and support of local communities and the overall benefits they provide.

Applications will be accepted until 29th July, and the public vote window will open on 17th August and close on 30th September.

Jonathan Hazeldine, head of M&S Energy, said the fund was designed to help more communities in the UK become environmentally and financially sustainable. “The M&S Community Energy Fund will enable a wide range of groups to get their projects off the ground and we’re looking forward to hearing about innovative projects that will benefit local communities across the UK,” he said.

The fund was also welcomed by energy minister Lord Bourne, who said it would “bring greener, cleaner energy supplies to local communities”.

The announcement of the fund comes a month after M&S Energy revealed it is moving to supplying 100% of its energy from renewable sources as part of its ‘Plan A’ initiative.

Details of how to apply can be found here.