Members of Northern Ireland’s only solar energy co-operative will receive a 4% return on their investment this year.
Northern Ireland Community Energy (NICE), which installed its first solar panels back in February 2015, has a total of 18 community sites in its portfolio.
Between 2015-2016, NICE raised over £202,000 in community shares and those who invested in the first community share offer in 2015 will now receive a 4% return on their investment, the organisation’s AGM was told.
But NICE chair Karen Arbuckle warned delegates that despite its successes, renewable energy in Northern Ireland had become an almost taboo subject because of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, which saw the power-sharing government rocked by scandal.
Ms Arbuckle added: “The fact remains for many in our community fuel and energy prices are worryingly increasing, and climate change effects are ever more evident and unforgiving, locally and the world over.
“Green energy enterprises, particularly community owned societies such as NICE are therefore even more important to changing mindsets, demonstrating energy efficiency and renewable technologies can and do make a social, economic and environmental difference.”
The amount of power generated at NICE installations has exceeded generation forecasts made at the launch of its two share offers. During the reporting period, NICE created more than 123,000-kilowatt hours, a saving of 67 tons of carbon.
One of the 18 community sites generated more than 11,000-kilowatt hours, which gave them a net energy saving of £1100. This money can be used to support frontline services.
NICE was set up by volunteers with a track record in renewable energy and co-operative models. They developed a community solar project that would allow them to create economies of scale, shared technical expertise, and to grow the knowledge base in Northern Ireland.
It is supported by Co-operative Alternatives, commissioned by the Building Change Trust to run its Community Shares, Ready! pilot project to increase awareness of Community Shares in Northern Ireland.
More information about NICE can be found on www.nicommunityenergy.org.