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British Gas teams up with social enterprises to build a £60m pipeline of solar energy projects to benefit local communities

For the first time a commercial energy partner, British Gas Solar, is working with a community benefit society, Gen Community, to offer solar panels for local government sites such as schools and town halls across the country.

The partnership will seek out energy projects where the financial benefits of solar energy from the government’s feed in tariffs are re-invested back into the local community.

It is estimated that the solar panels will save up to 40% of the electricity bills for potentially 8,000 rooftop sites. Revenue from the feed in tariffs will flow back into the community to support local social enterprises and educational services targeting fuel poverty.

Social Finance will raise up to £60m of institutional loan capital to finance the pipeline. Alongside this, members of the community will be able to invest in the solar projects by purchasing shares and will receive a fair financial return, in addition to social and environmental benefits.

Gen Community will oversee the projects, liaising with local authorities and engaging with community organisations. British Gas Solar will be the contractor for the installation of the projects ensuring excellent quality assurance on deployment and will continue to operate and maintain the systems. Social Finance is the lead arranger of the 20 year inflation linked, amortising, asset-backed Social Solar Bond.

“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.

Mike Chessum, Head of Energy Construction Services at British Gas, said: " Our partnership with Gen Community signals a breakthrough in the delivery of community energy across the UK. We are 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, said: “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.”

Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, said: “It’s great news that the grant from our Investment and Contract Readiness Fund helped Generation Community to grow and develop such innovative projects. The partnership with British Gas is a significant endorsement of the role that social enterprise can play in delivering services alongside benefiting communities. We hope that this will be the first of many similar partnerships.”

This announcement comes as the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) looks to promote its community energy strategy, encouraging commercial developers to work with community energy groups.

For more information, please visit www.gen-community.co.uk


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