Proposals for projects come to Energy4All from landowners, farmers, community groups and even commercial developers. In the case of most projects Energy4All has found that the best approach is to guide the community group or landowner through a self asssessment process. In this way the enquirer gets a much better understanding of what is involved, what the major hurdles are likely to be and whether the project is likely to be financially and technically viable. For wind energy projects Energy4All has established the website www.energysteps.coop which provides tools for an initial self-assessment.
Once it has been established that a project is viable and a formal agreement has been reached between the project and Energy4All, the work of setting up a co-operative can begin. Energy4All registers this with the Financial Services Authority using pre-approved Model Rules. The Co-operative's founder directors will normally include Energy4All staff as well as those from the local community. The co-operative is the legal entity which will develop and run the project.
a) Pre-planning - The most difficult and risky stage for most community-owned renewables projects is the application for planning permission. Raising the finance for this stage is a significant problem, though Energy4All can help identify possible sources and apply for funding depending upon circumstances of the proposed project.
Once risk funding is in place, Energy4all will provide project management services for the whole planning application process, which can be lengthy, complex and expensive.
In parallel with the planning Energy4All will work closely with the local community on a programme of information and engagement to develop understanding of the issues and to encourage support for the project.
b) Post Planning - Energy4All can guide the group or project owner through the whole process of procurement of turbines and other equipment, the site infrastructure contracts, grid connection and contracts for the sale of power etc.
Where necessary Energy4All oversees the whole construction process, using an expert project manager to ensure efficient delivery of the project. This stage of the project only ends when commissioning of the machinery is complete and the site is handed over to the owners.
To avoid the risks and costs involved in the early stages of a scheme, while ensuring a community stake in larger projects, Energy4All has secured unique agreements with selected developers to offer communities a share in major commercial wind farms. In these cases, the co-operative purchases a stake in the proposed wind farm without having to get directly involved in the detailed development process. The co-op either owns one or more turbines or a share of the income. In such cases the wind farm is operated and maintained by the main project developer, whilst Energy4All manages the day-to-day business of the co-operative.
Financing a project
Energy projects are capital intensive and renewables are no exception. Once planning permission has been secured, the community group or owner has to secure the necessary equity and loan finance. This is where Energy4All's expertise in running public share offers for commnity renewables comes in. A prospectus is written under the FSA regulations and a comprehensive publicity campaign is organised with the local community taking the lead. The aim is always to secure the maximum possible community engagement while successfully raising the required capital.
Where necessary, Energy4All will also negotiate a bank loan to complete the financing for the project.
Operating a project
The project now enters the Operational phase. Energy4All will normally have a separate long-term contract with the co-operative to support its operation throughout the life of the project. This can involve two distinct aspects:
i) Energy4All manages the day-to-day affairs of the co-operative, supporting the board, answering members' queries and undertaking all necessary administrative and accountancy functions.
Many co-ops in the Energy4All family spend a proportion of their income on environmental work in their local communities. Energy4All encourages and supports such initiatives, which the co-ops fund themselves.
ii) In addition, on projects where the community owns the project, Energy4All can manage the long term relationship with the equipment manufacturers to maintain the turbines. It also manages the sale of power and all other technical support functions requested by the board.
To investigate future co-operation please contact us.