£60 million community solar pipeline announced

A new partnership has promised to build a pipeline of solar PV projects worth £60 million across local government sites in the UK.

The partnership between British Gas’s solar division, Generation Community and Social Finance aims to equip sites such as schools and town halls with solar arrays to help cut buildings’ utility costs through a ‘Solar Social Bond’.   

The group estimates that it could potentially install solar PV on 8,000 rooftops – saving the average property 40% on its electricity bill. The group has promised that revenue generated from the feed-in tariff would be returned to the community by supporting local social enterprises and educational services which target fuel poverty.

“This is an exciting chance to deliver renewable energy both professionally and to a commercial standard, whilst keeping community ownership and values at the core of the project. We hope that local authorities and housing associations come forward to take advantage of this new partnership,” said James Mansfield, director of Gen Community.

Social Finance will raise the capital required for the PV pipeline, with Gen Community charged with overseeing the projects; British Gas Solar will install and operate the arrays.

Mike Chessum, head of energy construction services at British Gas, said that the company was “proud to be the first commercial energy partner working alongside social enterprises that will provide new ways of delivering power to communities”. 

Richard Speak, head of sustainable communities at Social Finance, added: “Community energy deals can act as catalyst for mainstream investment markets to align financial returns with tangible social impact. These deals help alleviate fuel poverty for our poorest households and bring the financial benefits back in to the communities.”

Gen Community notes that the local authority contracts will start with a minimum of 5MW and expects them to be between £5-10 million.

The government has committed to encouraging more community energy projects in the UK with the launch of its community energy strategy.