New acquisition boosts generating capacity Community Power Cornwall

The co-op says the purchase of privately owned assets is a viable way for the community energy sector to expand

Community Power Cornwall (CPC) has announced its acquisition of the wholly owned subsidiary West Country Renewables (WCR) for approximately £1.34m.

The community-owned energy co-op – the first to be set up in the county – hailed the move as “a significant step for community ownership of energy generation in Cornwall”.

It is the first time a Cornish community energy society has bought an existing company. The co-op says the transfer of assets from private to community ownership is becoming a more viable method for expanding community energy in the UK – and ensuring its benefits stay local.

Thanks to the sale, a number of assets are now under community ownership – five solar arrays located at Mount Hawke Skate Park, St Agnes Railway Yard, St Agnes Presingoll Farm and Scarne Industrial Estate, totalling 500kW; and three 11kW wind turbines which are scattered across the rest of the south west.

CPC estimates that is this transfer will retain £2.5m in the Cornish economy before any multiplier effect.

The acquisition was funded by a loan of £1.43m from the Low Carbon Society Limited (TLC), a community development financial institution which makes loans to community enterprises to support projects with positive social and environmental outcomes. TLC has a loan facility with Cornwall Council which funded £1.27m of this acquisition.

Clayton Elliott of CPC said: “It is great to have kept WCR in local community ownership as it would have been a great shame if the money flows that WCR derives from Cornish natural resources had been lost from the local economy. It is also a step change for CPC which started with one site in 2011 and now manages 24 installations and about a megawatt of installed capacity all held in common ownership.”

Emma Bridge of Community Energy England added: “The acquisition of WCR by CPC demonstrates how communities are innovatively evolving business models to acquire existing private assets thereby increasing the community value of generation projects.

“We applaud the hard work undertaken by Community Power Cornwall and the support given by Cornwall Council and hope this can inspire other communities and local authorities to do similar across the UK.”

Bob Edgerton, Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for planning and the economy, said community energy is an important part of the county’s devolution deal we have with the government.

“I’m very pleased that the support provided by Cornwall Council with its £2.5m loan fund for community-run renewable energy projects has played a part in this achievement,” he added.

“I would like to congratulate everybody, many of whom are volunteers, for making this initiative such a success and I look forward to seeing how it develops.”