Edinburgh Solar Coop
“The Edinburgh Community Energy Co-operative is the epitome of community wealth building. Community shares and one-member-one-vote provide plural ownership and make financial power work for local places while the relationship with City of Edinburgh Council, whose buildings form the basis of the project, enables socially just use of land and property and provides a route to progressive procurement of goods and services.”
The Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative is a community benefit society whose 683 members have invested £2.1 million in 30 solar arrays across Edinburgh which are generating 1.5GWh of green energy per year. The co-op was set up to provide a democratic structure through which the people of Edinburgh could help meet the energy needs of the city.
The co-op has the very ambitious objective of developing a community-owned renewable energy project which will enable the citizens of Edinburgh to sustainably support the energy needs of Edinburgh, growing the project over time to meet more of that need.
This has been done in partnership with City of Edinburgh Council on whose buildings all of the arrays installed to date are placed.
However, the co-op is seeking to build partnerships across the public, private and third sectors, democratising energy provision as it builds and develops.
What does Community Wealth Building mean to your organisation and how are you putting that into practice?
Edinburgh Community Solar Co-op would see community wealth building as an intrinsic part of what it does. The money for this project was raised through two community share offers. The first share offer in 2015 raised around 70% of the capital from people in Edinburgh and the second share offer raised 100% of the capital from Edinburgh people. This money is the savings of people in Edinburgh which is being spent in Edinburgh. The financial surplus from the co-op is used for community benefit within the city with grants going to groups across the city.
While the City of Edinburgh Council were extremely supportive, and indeed the project would have been unable to succeed without their support, the issue of procurement was a difficult one for both the co-op and the City of Edinburgh Council. A strict interpretation of procurement rules might suggest that the community co-op should compete with large, private businesses for the right to install solar panels on City of Edinburgh Council roofs with the council deciding mainly on price.
The City of Edinburgh Council and the co-op worked together to enable the project to happen but it took a great deal of input from the council to make this possible.
“The Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative has built a socially-owned institution which enables the people of Edinburgh to derive community benefit from an asset which was already in place – the City of Edinburgh Council buildings – while providing green energy to the city’s principal institution – the City of Edinburgh Council”.
Drew Murphy – Chair of Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative