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Bristol Energy Cooperative gives energy profits back to its community – CEO Helen Martin introduces its latest share offer
Easton Community Centre’s solar roof helps keep bills down

This article first appeared in our World Environment Day issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published 05 June 2024. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Main image: Easton Community Centre’s solar roof helps keep bills down

Energy bills have soared in recent years, leaving many appalled by the record-breaking profits reported by big energy providers.

Skyrocketing energy prices also pose a threat to essential community spaces; many are struggling to keep the bills paid and their users warm.

At the same time our government is not doing enough to reduce our national carbon output or invest in renewable energy; currently only about 40% of our energy comes from renewable sources.

As it stands right now, as a country we are not acting quickly enough to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

It’s time to rethink how we fulfil our community energy needs, and community energy is a solution – right on our doorsteps – that could help us to reach net zero.

Supporting community spaces

At Bristol Energy Cooperative (BEC) we have made it our mission to build renewable energy projects and keep the profits within the communities that use them.

With our members, we are working to reduce fossil fuel use, increase renewables and support essential community spaces and projects.

Bristol Energy Cooperative is a non-profit enterprise that develops renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects with and for the community.

Established in 2011, we are owned by members of the community in and around Bristol, and individuals further afield who share our values.

Over the last 13 years, the co-operative has grown to over 1,600 investor members.

With their help, BEC has brought 20 solar and battery projects online, generating enough clean, home-grown electricity to power over 3,500 homes annually.

Renewables in communities

BEC projects are funded by investor members, who receive interest on their investment from the money the co-op receives for the energy we produce. However, it’s important to mention that returns on investment are not guaranteed.

The installation and operation of solar panels save the community spaces we work with thousands of pounds a year.

With these savings, essential community spaces are given a chance to survive and thrive in these tough economic times.

Our members’ investments have enabled BEC to build a growing portfolio of clean energy projects – most recently rooftop solar installations on the newly refurbished Bristol Beacon music venue and the Bottle Yard Studios film and TV studio facility.

Unlike the big energy corporates, we retain benefits within the community to create positive change.

Since we started, we have generated over £400,000 for community groups and projects working on issues like tackling fuel poverty, improving energy efficiency, cutting carbon emissions and raising awareness of positive climate action.

We have generated £400,000 in direct community benefits funds and also given over £4,000 in international charity donations.

We have now launched a share offer on the Triodos Bank UK crowdfunding platform, hoping to tap into the growing interest from everyday investors to support green energy generation, local communities and energy independence.

Triodos Bank has been a proud supporter of community energy for many years.

What crowdfunding will achieve

Through this community share offer, BEC aims to raise £1 million. Investors will become voting members of one of the country’s largest, longest-running and most innovative energy co-ops.

We will use these funds to advance our mission of building a power station on the rooftops of Bristol by adding at least one megawatt of rooftop solar capacity, and to keep developing innovative local clean energy projects.

Sun shines on Bristol Beacon

BEC’s latest solar rooftop installation on the iconic Bristol Beacon is the kind of positive story we need right now.

Our 348 solar panels will reduce Bristol Beacon’s annual energy bills by around £2,400 in the first year, save the venue nearly 23 tonnes of CO2 annually and boost our community benefit contributions by an estimated £12,400 over the project’s lifetime – supporting the grassroots work that holds our city together.

The project won Community Energy Initiative at Regen’s Green Energy Awards last year. It’s all part of our mission to build a power station on Bristol’s roofs.

Don’t invest unless you’re prepared to lose all the money you invest. This is a high-risk investment and you are unlikely to be protected if something goes wrong.

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