The solar energy future of Brighton

The solar energy future of Brighton

In my last blog I spoke about REPOWERBalcombe, which is set to fight fracking and become the first solar powered village in the UK. A little closer to home, Brighton Energy Co-op and Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative are running a similar project.

Brighton Energy Co-operative is a long-standing and ambitious local initiative. Partnering with organisations and businesses, it installs solar panels in the city. The energy is provided to local businesses or groups of residents, and helps them to cut down on their energy bills by working together. The scheme is funded through its members, who pay from £500 to £20,000 to invest in the sustainable future of their community.

The initiative bills itself a good return on investment, with roughly 5% of investment being returned to the investor each year, meaning they recuperate their money in 20 years – a seemingly financially sound long term investment plan. This is in addition to the 30% rebate investors receive as part of the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme. By opening up solar energy to the community, and giving the community a financial stake in the scheme’s success, the scheme has excited many residents and investors about the future of Brighton and Hove’s clean energy future when national governments seem to take little interest in green alternatives.

With Brighton being the sunniest city in the UK, it seems ripe for solar initiatives. Subsidies put in place by former governments and a keen Green-Party led local authority has meant that the city is a great incubator for solar innovation. The Energy Co-op has been running since 2010 however, proving the city’s long determination for innovation and transition long before the Green Party became a credible solution in the city.

Brighton Energy Co-op is also not alone as the only energy co-op in the city, with Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BhesCo) also seeking to get the community to invest in its green future. BhesCo is a newer co-operative, which takes a view to encourage shareholders to switch energy providers to sustainable options, as well as providing a solar power share scheme similar to Brighton Energy Co-operative’s scheme.

The Brighton Energy Co-operative seems to be growing from strength to strength, with over 200 members and £680,000 invested by those members according to their latest share report, the organisation is still expanding. They are seeking to raise £1,000,000 in their latest share offering and spread further into Hove and Brighton.

The question is, with three initiatives working towards similar aims in the area, how can we accelerate the transition to sustainability? Should the groups start coordinating and sharing resources, should they work independently and share skills? Or maybe, should they partake in the free market principles that dominate the energy sector at the moment?

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Miriam is a student at the University of Sussex in Brighton. She can be found at @ThatMiriam on twitter.

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