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PECR: Making Waves in Plymouth

The award-winning Plymouth Energy Community (PEC) is doing great things! This week they are celebrating the launch of PEC Renewables third share offer - providing an opportunity for positive investment and community ownership in a completed and operational 4.1MW solar array.

Getting started
PEC was set up in June 2013 with the support of Plymouth City Council as a Community Benefit Society to help local people transform how they buy, use and generate energy. Plymouth aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by 2031 and faces significant issues in responding to the energy challenges posed by 15,400 households living in fuel poverty and a large number of poorly-insulated and energy-inefficient properties. PEC has three key goals: reducing bills and fuel poverty, improving energy efficiency and generating more renewable heat and power.

Thirty local schools now have solar PV
PEC has grown into a big-thinking, fast-moving community-owned operation with over 1200 members and a volunteer board of highly-skilled Directors. In 2014, they set up PEC Renewables to fund, build and manage renewable energy installations and allow collective local ownership. It has already raised £1,450,000 in community shares from over 300 investor members. As a result, 30 schools and local organisations now have solar PV schemes on their roofs. This saves them £90,000 per year on electricity bills and provides a valuable educational resource, especially for the science and maths curriculum. Surplus income generated goes back to PEC to support its grassroots activities. 

Energy advice and support services
Over the last three years, PEC has built the capacity of the organisation and done a lot to support local fuel poverty projects. They offer an amazing range of energy advice and support services targeted at low income, vulnerable and fuel-poor households. This includes their “shout and the energy team can help out” campaign to help people reduce energy bills and become more energy savvy in their homes. They also have four full-time advisors that can help specifically with gas and electricity debt, and home improvements targeted to improve the health of those living in cold, damp homes. They have supported over 11,200 households, saving over £341,000 from annual bills, and helped residents clear £155,000 of energy debt. The success of their projects has earned PEC a shelf-full of awards including an Observer Ethical Award 2015; UK Social Enterprise Award 2014; and RegenSW Green Energy Award 2014.

Switching on Ernie
Switching on of “Ernie”, their most recent solar array means PEC has smashed their target to deliver 5MW of locally-owned clean energy generation, 3 years early! The array will generate the equivalent energy to meet the annual needs of 1000 homes and approximately £2,900,000 in community benefit funds. It has been built with short term construction finance from Leapfrog Bridge Finance Ltd, to ensure it could be completed in advance of forecast subsidy cuts. To keep the array as a long-term community-owned asset, they are now refinancing it, with a combination of a loan from Plymouth City Council and community shares.

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