Younity launches kickstarter to help grow the community energy sector

Younity partner Midcounties is putting principle 6 into action with its support for the sector, starting with Bristol Energy Co-op

Younity, the joint venture between Octopus Energy and Midcounties Co-operative, has launched the Community Energy Kickstart initiative, to help bridge the funds needed to kickstart community energy groups’ renewable projects. 

The move, which comes as the Younity venture marks its third birthday, is an example of principle 6 – co-operation among co-operatives, as it allow Midcounties to support community-owned energy ventures.

The retail society, which recently co-signed a letter from business leaders urging the government to improve its support for renewable generation and community energy, is one of the leading supporters and facilitators of renewable energy in the UK.

Younity says its £1.5m Kickstart fund is designed to streamline the process that comes with traditional and prohibitively expensive financing from banks. The fund aims to bridge startup costs like buying solar panels or wind turbines, and to help projects to quickly achieve scale so they can generate more cheap green power for their community. 

The first scheme to receive support is Bristol Energy Cooperative, which has been given a £1m loan for its 1 MW rooftop solar project in Hengrove, South Bristol. The project is based at the Bottle Yard Studios, which is owned and run by Bristol City Council.

It is hoped the fund will unlock the potention Britain’s more than 400 community energy groups with 319 MW of renewable energy capacity. Younity already supports around half of these groups and the community energy sector is set to reach 5 GW+ by 2030. 

“This is a significant step in the right direction to help community energy projects get up and running quicker than ever before,” said Midcounties CEO Phil Ponsonby. “This is all about bridging the funding gap for community energy groups to facilitate renewable power projects and create locally owned sustainable solutions.”   

Octopus CEO Zoisa North-Bond added: “Community energy projects are vital in bringing more secure, cheap, clean energy closer to communities who’ll benefit. Launching this initiative will help unleash the sector’s potential and tap into the growing demand for home-grown green power and lower bills.”

Related: Younity backs its 200th community energy project

Andy O’Brien, co-founder and director of of Bristol Energy Cooperative, said: “We’re really passionate about the positive impact of green power on our community. We’re over the moon to have got such affordable access to the funds we needed to build our latest solar community energy project so we can generate more green energy for our community.”

To qualify for the Kickstart initiative, projects can apply for an advance on funds and once they reach their community share-raising phase, this is paid back to Younity. This allows for a flow of funds for the next waves of the growing community energy movement.

Younity will work with the projects supported by the Community Energy Kickstart to secure Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). This means offering fair pricing to community energy groups, which supports their community benefit funds and local projects like fuel poverty or education. Excess energy is supplied to Co-op Community Power Tariff customers, the UK’s only tariff powered by renewable electricity from community projects. 

Younity has signed 200 energy supply agreements for community energy groups, across 136 solar sites, 22 wind sites and 42 hydro sites, everywhere from Scotland to Cornwall.