An innovative community energy project to be delivered in partnership with Energise Barnsley was approved by Barnsley Council Cabinet on 14 July 2021.
The initiative will be the first of its kind in the UK and leads the way in financing solar initiatives.
The key benefits from the proposal are:
- Increasing the average energy efficiency score of Berneslai Homes properties.
- The potential to save tenants money on their energy bills
- Reduce carbon emissions over the life of the project
- Provide £487,000 for community projects
- Create and secure six jobs through the installation of the solar panels (PV)
Energise Barnsley is the largest community energy solar PV and battery storage project in the UK. Barnsley council funded and installed solar on 310 tenanted properties in 2013. Energise Barnsley funded and installed solar on 321 tenanted properties in 2015. Both projects were funded to install Solar PV to council-owned properties helping to reduce fuel poverty (tenants being able to use the free electricity generated) alongside the benefits of reducing carbon emissions (the electricity generated is zero carbon). Energise Barnsley also uses any surpluses to support community causes within Barnsley, they recently awarded £20,000 of the 2021 Community Solar Fund, to Community First Credit Union, Barnsley. This innovative approach offers support to people delivering services that help people to manage their daily finances.
Barnsley now has over 600 homes and 16 non-domestic properties with solar PV; with income associated with the installations (the feed-in tariff scheme FITS) helping to pay back the original 2013 council funded project in full and paying back the community investors in 2015 with a 5% community bond.
FITS are historic payments guaranteed by the Government and made regarding the electricity generated by the solar panels; this now means that the remaining FiT income associated with the 2013 installations will be assigned to Energise Barnsley, in return for the Society to raise community investment to install another 1000 solar PV's across the council's housing stock, in addition to maintaining the systems. Payment this way helps local authorities balance their budgets and put money back into the community's community and pockets by reducing their energy bills (lessening fuel poverty) and reducing their home's carbon footprint. The scheme does not tie residents to any energy supplier and offers tenants free use of all the generated electricity, not just a subsided amount, ultimately boosting the local economy.
Local contractors (electricians, solar installers, roofers, scaffolders, etc.) will be trained to install and maintain the solar PV systems. The programme will be available to those residents living in suitable properties (subject to survey) and, where possible, those at most risk of fuel poverty in Barnsley.
Dan Jarvis Barnsley Central MP and South Yorkshire Mayor said; “As a very long-standing campaigner on the issue of tackling fuel poverty and excess winter deaths, it’s great to see that plans are well underway to make Barnsley’s social housing stock greener and more energy-efficient.
“As MP and Mayor, I’m working hard to accelerate our transition to net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 at the latest and to tackle the climate emergency.
“It is very welcome that Energise Barnsley are working in partnership with Barnsley Council and Berneslai Homes and I am proud to support the important work they are doing.”
Cllr Jenny Platts, cabinet spokesperson for Adults and Communities, "The work that has previously taken place with Energise Barnsley has given us an excellent base to see how solar energy can improve our carbon footprint across Barnsley, but also help our residents to be more financially stable within their homes. If we can increase this project, we can help more people out of fuel poverty with this innovative scheme with additional environmental benefits for our borough.”
Emma Bridge CEO, Community Energy England, "This is a really exciting project, as it is testament to the growth and strength of community energy over the last 10 years, especially with community benefit societies, like Energise Barnsley, who have strong project partners, an excellent track record and leading the way on innovation. I look forward to tracking the progress of this project both as a Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commissioner and as Chief Executive of Community Energy England, as this is one of the first nationally to combine existing solar installations to pay for new solar installations.”
Andy Heald, Director, Gen Community, Energise Barnsley and Egni Sir Gar, “This project is an excellent example of Barnsley Council working in partnership with our community energy society. The project takes advantage of our ability to raise significant community finance (circa £3.5 million) against project outcomes with strong social, environmental and financial returns, with a trusted partner.
“Another 1,000 tenants will benefit from reduced electricity bills, valued at an estimated £10 million over the lifetime of the panels. Recycling FiT income from original installations into new installations whilst gearing the investment through community ownership means that the 1,000 installations can take place in the next 18 months, instead of 90 installations a year. Many other councils could follow suit with their original solar installations.”
Arturo Gulla, Executive Director of Berneslai Homes adds, “This scheme is great news for our tenants who will see potential savings to their energy bills, as well as helping to reduce the carbon footprint of Barnsley’s housing stock.”