2016 has been an mixed year in so many ways, and has left many of us wondering what the future of the renewable energy sector. It’s inspiring to see Bristol Energy Coop raised £10m towards their third share offer, enabling a huge portfolio of 2 solar farms and 22 community buildings. Over 800 people joined in to crowd fund their expansion of community owned Bristol and the south west, and they are adding an impressive 9,300 MWh annual electricity generation to their portfolio, enough to power around 2,270 homes.
We dreamed up the Bristol Energy Coop in the pub in the winter of 2010, thinking that while renewable energy wasn’t strictly the best way to reduce carbon emissions, it was maybe the easiest way – a place to start anyway. Feed In Tariffs were a bubble, an opportunity waiting to be exploited. What if we took advantage of that while we could, would that give us the flexibility to then tackle the bigger stuff? It took us two years just to get the venture off the ground and the first installations went up literally hours before the first cuts to the subsidies in 2012.
Now with a £10m balance sheet, will the social enterprise business model we dreamed up for the project give it the flexibility and financial clout to continue to grow and find ways to fulfil its purpose, despite the collapse of government support or clear policy on climate change, and the subsequent collapse of the renewables sector?