International Inspiration & Home Truths: Community Energy

Our series “International Inspiration and Home Truths” shares some of the crowdlending stories we’ve heard from far and wide, brings that inspiration back to Aotearoa and hears from the enthusiasts who’ve helped us to imagine what crowdlending could look like for a range of kiwi organisations. First up is the transformative world of community energy projects.


How can a sustainably-minded community create a more resilient energy landscape for themselves? The Great Dunkilns community in Gloucester, UK decided to take the problem of funding into their own hands by, along with conscious investors throughout the country, collectively lending £1.4million to construct a community scale wind turbine on their turf. The energy produced is being used to power local houses, with the excess being sold back to the grid. The money earned from the energy is used to pay back their lenders their investment plus an annual interest rate of 7%.

 

There’s been some big government support in Britain too. Swindon Borough Council, to deliver on their vision of developing a low carbon economy by 2030, co-funded a common solar farm – the £1.7million contributed by the crowd was double-matched by the council.

How could empowered local communities power New Zealand?

Imagine, an off-grid wind turbine – built by and for the local residents of a wind-battered coastal community – being funded by that community and the many renewable believers all over both islands, North and South. Now imagine many of these renewably-powered pockets, from Dunedin to Wellington to Kaitaia, enabling New Zealand to achieve our goal of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral country by 2020.

We’ve seen a few great examples of clean energy crowdfunding through PledgeMe already, with Blueskin Energy crowdfunding to build a measurement tower, and Powerhouse Wind equity crowdfunding their single bladed wind turbine (below).

The enthusiast who’s inspired us

Renewable energy fanatic and our friend, Ian Shearer, first opened our eyes to the potential of crowdlending for community energy initiatives from his experience in the UK. Here’s Ian’s perspective on crowdlending:

What about crowdlending appeals to you?

I’m a community-minded person – always have been. I was involved with co-operative lending many years ago, which has partly paved the path for crowdlending. So that’s how I began to see the mechanism of crowdlending come together. But what really appeals to me is being able to invest in my passion, to invest in renewable energy.

What good things have you seen achieved in the community energy space?

What first brought me into the community energy world wasn’t necessarily my passion for renewables. It was my involvement with small communities in Scotland, and seeing the desire of these small communities to own their own the systems to enable them to power themselves. Community Energy Scotland were an extremely progressive organisation and they recognised crowdlending as the way to go to not just make community energy projects viable, but also to allow the people in the local area to benefit financially from the success of those projects. They were one of the first to take that step to help small island communities create and fund self-reliant wind-powered energy systems.

Biggest benefit beyond the money?

Collective ownership of something that matters to you.

Compared to the UK, what major obstacles do you see lying in the way of community energy crowdlending in New Zealand?

Two things really. A first successfully funded project that leads the way for others to follow. And secondly, once we find some traction, not being able to trade your investment may be an obstacle to grow the involvement of investors.

 

Are you inspired by what you’ve read, and interested in turning to crowdlending for your community energy outfit? Chat to us!

3 Comments

  1. paul bruce

    Thanks for the inspiring examples of community energy. It appears that there are many projects on the point of take off here in NZ, and it just needs some leadership to make it happen. The best hope may now be in community PV with power bank storage, enabling low income people to buy in.

    1. Barry G
      Barry G

      And thank you for your insight, Paul! Any good folks leading the charge (pun intended!) who’s stories we should hear?

  2. Christine

    Excellent community inspired project…love the idea and would really like to see something similiar happening here in Mangawhai…anyone else keen to be involved?

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