Solar industry encourages greater levels of community financing

The Solar Trade Association (STA) has revised its '10 commitments' for best practise for its members, to support the Department for Energy and Climate Change's (DECC) push for greater levels of local and community ownership.

The eighth commitment will now read: “We will offer investment opportunities to communities in their local solar farms where there is local appetite and where it is commercially viable.”

The STA states it is now best practice, where commercially viable, to offer local investment opportunities in solar farms such as bond offers, local authority partnerships or partnerships with legally constituted community energy groups.

Welcoming this revision, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “Solar is a key part of the community energy revolution and I think we will continue to keep [public] support and grow that support. I am particularly grateful to the Solar Trade Association for its work in showing people the best practice in installations in the 10 Commitments and for including shared ownership and community energy as part of those 10 Commitments.”

ISA Eligibility

In January 2014, DECC asked an industry taskforce to come up with a framework for increased community ownership of local projects, as part of its Community Energy Strategy.

The coalition Government recently pledged support for community schemes with Chancellor George Osborne announcing in his last Autumn Statement that crowdfunded bonds and debentures will be ISA eligible from the September 2015 – a move which Karl Harder of crowd-funding platform Abundance Generation believes will open up a major new source of low cost capital for the solar industry. 

“[The ISA breakthrough] will help the solar industry move towards grid parity while also making it possible for everyone in the UK to benefit from the solar revolution,” said Harder.

Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the STA, who represented the solar industry on the Shared Ownership Taskforce, said: “Our aim is to find genuine win-wins for the industry and communities that will ultimately enable the UK to accelerate the deployment of clean solar power.”

The STA also said it felt the policy framework had been ‘”unfairly tilted against the solar industry” and expected a market contraction later this year, but was “very interested in the potential ISA eligibility for local investors in solar farms to help the industry secure cost-effective financing.”

 Lucinda Dann

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