Empower Community winner at 2017 Solar Power Portal Awards

Empower Community was announced as the winner of the Residential Rooftop PV category at the Solar Power Portal Awards ceremony in Birmingham on 4th October 2017. It was an evening of celebration for Empower Community, having also been nominated twice in the ‘Best Use of Solar in a Community/Social Benefit Project’ category.

In a strategic partnership with Peterborough City Council, the Empower Community Solar projects have won multiple awards since the project’s inception in 2015, including the Renewable Energy Association Community Award in 2015, the National Energy Efficiency and Retrofit Awards in 2016 and the Local Government Chronicle Awards Innovation category earlier in 2017.

The Empower Community Solar model works by bringing full funding, off balance-sheet, to deliver solar PV programmes for social housing and local authority and housing association buildings, all of which provide free daytime access to the solar generation.

Over the course of a 20-year roof access agreement, income from the Feed-in Tariff covers all investor repayments and operational costs, as well as generating surplus profits for the Social Landlord and their local community. This community profit is shared equally between the Landlord and a Local Community Fund (held in trust for the local community by the Empower Community Foundation – a registered charity), with the interests of all parties aligned.

Since 2015 Empower Community Solar has installed over 3,500 new rooftop solar arrays with social landlords Stockport Homes, Ongo (formerly North Lincolnshire Homes), Boston Mayflower, Axiom Housing, Corby Borough Council and Northampton Borough Council, as well as 400 privately owned homes in Peterborough, and the acquisition of a further 3,000 rooftop installations from Gentoo Group in Sunderland and 1,100 from Gravesham Borough Council, taking the total number of PV assets under management to over 10,000.

Peterborough City Council provides the construction and warehouse funding, as part of its ‘Invest to Save’ programme and long-term refinancing is achieved via institutional financing of £30m+ bundles of PV assets, including rooftop installations and FiT/PPA-backed ground-mounted solar installations.


A Double Win for Communities and Solar


Leapfrog Finance funds acquisition of two community solar projects by Empower Community Foundation from Pfalzsolar

  • Two community solar projects acquired of 5MW each
  • Projects have the potential to generate over £2 million of income for local community organisations and projects over their 25-year lifetime
  • Empower Community adds to a rapidly growing solar portfolio

Leapfrog Finance is proud to announce its funding of the acquisition by Empower Community Foundation (ECF) of two solar Community Interest Companies (CIC) of a combined 10MW constructed by Pfalzsolar. The sites are located in Salisbury and Arbroath and were commissioned in June 2016. ECF will run the solar farms as community projects for the benefit of the local communities, and over the next 6 months will be engaging local organisations to maximise the community benefit from the project income.

Lux Nova Partners and Johnston Carmichael Chartered Accountants acted for Leapfrog Finance. Bates Wells and Braithwaite and Francis Clarke acted for Empower Community Foundation.

Richard O’Rourke, Managing Director of Leapfrog Finance said “We’re delighted to have been able to support ECF’s acquisition of this project. It is yet another example of Leapfrog’s commitment to not only enabling community ownership, but maximising social impact. Forecast to deliver over £2m of community income over the life of the projects, it has enormous potential to catalyse the delivery of social impact across a wide spectrum of issues in these communities.”

Alex Grayson, trustee at Empower Community Foundation, said: “These two community-benefit solar parks add to the many thousands of solar installations on social housing that Empower Community has developed and financed and continues to prove that at-scale renewable energy generation can be configured for community benefit.”

Thomas Kercher, CEO of Pfalzsolar, said: “It’s a real pleasure to see Pfalzsolar’s commitment to renewable energy benefitting the local community. Pfalzsolar was involved in all aspects of this project, from development through to financing and construction, and continues to provide operation and maintenance services.”

Candice Motran, Investment Director at Big Society Capital, said: “I am thrilled to see another project receive finance through our facility with Leapfrog Finance. The goal we had in making the facility available was to make it easier for communities to acquire large renewable energy assets which had the potential to deliver significant sums to local projects delivering impact in communities. This project will deliver on those goals, making it a great success for Leapfrog Finance, Empower Community and the Salisbury and Arbroath communities.”


From left to right, standing: Leapfrog Finance (Richard O’Rourke, Matthew Andrews), Empower Community (Bob Knowles, Paul Yiannouzis). Seated: Alex Grayson, Empower Community

First Empower Community area-wide solar PV scheme set to kick off in Peterborough

Council set to spearhead solar scheme for residential homeowners

A pioneering new scheme which will offer owners of residential homes in Peterborough the chance to have solar panels installed on their properties is being considered by Peterborough City Council.

At a meeting on Monday 15 December 2014, Cabinet members will be asked to approve the council entering into partnership with social enterprise Empower Community Management LLP, to deliver solar panels on private properties in the city.

If Cabinet agrees the proposals, it will be the first scheme of its kind in the country.

Under the scheme, property owners would benefit from in the region of £200 worth of free energy each year generated by the solar panels and a one-off payment of £100 every five years for their participation in the scheme. There would be no cost to the owner of the property whatsoever.

A community fund would be established out of a percentage of the money the scheme generates. Based on an assumed take-up of 1,500 properties, the fund could total around £1 million over the 20 years of the scheme. In addition, the council would also expect to generate in the region of £1million during the same period. Councillor Marco Cereste, leader of the council and cabinet member for growth, strategic planning, housing, economic development and business engagement, said: “The partnership that we want to enter into with Empower Community is a win/win for our residents, the council and the wider city. It also bolsters our ever growing environmental credentials by reducing the carbon footprint of our residents and the city as a whole.

“Currently, having solar panels on residential properties tends to be restricted to those who can afford them, people who are approached by companies who install solar panels for free and those who live in social housing.

“The partnership with Empower Community could potentially offer every residential home owner in the city the chance to benefit financially and environmentally from the benefits of solar energy.

“In addition, there would be a benefit for the wider community through the community fund, and the money the council will generate over the life of the scheme which could be used to protect frontline services.

“As is well documented, our grant from government has been reduced by £40 million since 2010 and this trend sees no sign of slowing pace. We have got to look at new and innovative ways of working to attract investment, through schemes such as this, so that we can continue to provide the services that our residents need and expect from us.”

The proposal is for the scheme to be trialled in the areas of the city which have formed part of the Green Deal Community Fund – Bourges Boulevard, Clarence Road, Cromwell Road, Crown Street, Dogsthorpe Road, Eastfield Road, Gladstone Street, Harris Street, Lincoln Road and St Paul’s Road.

If the scheme is successful in these areas, then it will be rolled out to the remainder of the city.

If Cabinet approves the partnership with Empower Community at its meeting on 15 December, residents in the trial area will receive more information about how to find out more and sign up


Empower Community issues a £10 million loan note to provide solar energy to social housing in Sunderland.

Empower Community announced this morning that a large UK institutional pension investor has loaned £10.1m to a project providing free daytime solar energy to over 2300 of Gentoo Group’s customers’ homes in Sunderland. The amortising 20 year loan will provide investors with an inflation-linked annual return. Profits from the deal will be reinvested in the local Sunderland community.

Empower Community will use the funds to acquire and manage existing solar photovoltaic installations on 2327 Gentoo social homes and 6 corporate buildings in the Sunderland area. It will continue to provide thousands of tenants with access to free daytime energy, which can reduce bills by up to 40% and will reduce carbon emissions with clean solar energy. With the refinancing of Gentoo’s solar panels, Gentoo plans to roll out PV panels to an additional 3000 homes in Sunderland.

Empower Community Management’s Alex Grayson says “The beauty of this deal is that everybody’s interests are aligned: the investor makes solid financial returns, with measurable social and environmental impact; tenants enjoy access to free daytime power, which helps them escape fuel poverty; Gentoo enjoys an ongoing return and financing to continue their exciting developments and the community receives funding for local initiatives from the profits.”

Peter Walls, Chief Executive, Gentoo Group said: “We’re always looking for new ways to make a positive difference and influence change – this innovative deal with Empower Community does just that. Fuel poverty is a genuine concern with rising energy costs – ‘heat or eat’ is a reality that many vulnerable individuals in our society are now facing. This is a unique way to deliver more solar solutions to our customers, at no cost, with the additional benefits that the local community fund will bring.”

Since the introduction of the Feed-in Tariff in 2010, despite some reviews along the way, the stable, long-term and index-linked nature of revenues from these projects have been attracting increasing interest from the UK institutional investment markets, but this is the first at-scale ‘balanced stakeholder’ model to arrive.

Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd said: “The benefits of this project are threefold: tenants get access to free daytime power, the housing association gets the finance to install solar panels in more social housing and the profits of the deal are reinvested back into the community. “The £100,000 worth of support from our Investment and Contract Readiness Fund has enabled this impressive organisation to go on and raise over £10m through a bond. I look forward to seeing this model replicated across the country with housing associations, schools, hospitals all benefiting from access to free day time energy.”

“It’s all about efficiency.” says Empower Community’s Bob Knowles, “If you can create a scalable structure which directly matches project revenues with investor requirements, everybody wins.”

Social Finance, the leading social investment intermediary, advised Empower Community and placed the deal. Martin Rich, Sales Director, said that “this is the first large-scale, socially-focused investment into solar energy for social housing. We are delighted that institutional investors can see the value of investing for social good whilst still achieving market rate returns.”

For more details, please contact Alisa Helbitz, Social Finance on 07500 433 044 / alisa.helbitz@socialfinance.org.uk or Alex Grayson, Empower Community on 0789 4909049 / alex.grayson@empowercommunity.co.uk or Victoria Scarisbrick, Gentoo on 07985 688262 / Victoria.Scarisbrick@gentoogroup.com


Notes to editors:

1) Solar PV panels do not require direct sunlight to operate and work on cloudy days. The performance of solar photovoltaic systems are seasonal, meaning an array may deliver up to four times more energy in July than in December, mainly due to longer daylight hours. UK PV installations are consistently out-performing accepted minimum generation expectations. Despite the legislative changes, the UK solar industry has been growing steadily, with 77MWp installed in 2010, 1GWp by 2011 and 2.2 GWp by the end of 2013. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has considerably increased the ambition for UK solar, with a target 22GWp install target by 2020 and the inclusion, for the first time, of PV as a core renewable energy technology.

2) The Feed-in-Tariff for UK Solar PV was introduced in April 2010. The scheme is designed to make small scale renewable energy generation economically attractive and stimulate market demand. The FiT is a UK statutory legal instrument that places an obligation on electricity supply companies to pay a guaranteed, long term subsidy to the owners of small renewable energy generating assets. It provides two income streams through a generation tariff and an export tariff. Both Tariffs pay a guaranteed, RPI-linked price over a 20 or 25 year period at the rate prevailing at the time of installation and registration. The FiT Regime has been subject to a series of reviews since its introduction in 2010.

3) Empower Community Management LLP is a social enterprise that balances the interests of all stakeholders by providing a high quality investment opportunity with attractive returns, reinvesting profits in further community projects and facilitating a community share in revenues and ultimate community ownership of assets. Empower Community Management’s ongoing role is the overall management of solar PV and the origination and due diligence of additional projects. Initially these are focused on solar PV projects, but with scope for further distributed energy projects, building towards area-wide programmes that accelerate the transition to sustainable, low carbon local economies. The Empower Community Foundation is designed to oversee, as trustee, local community funds that receive a share of profits from renewable energy projects and other programmes invested, research and share best practice and provide a governance framework for the overall initiative. Empower Community (www.empowercommunity.co.uk) was established with the support of UnLtd (www.unltd.org.uk), Panahpur (www.panahpur.org), Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts (www.sfct.org.uk) and National Energy Foundation (www.nef.org.uk).

4) Gentoo is a registered provider of social housing with some 28,000+ homes and over 70,000 customers in and around the Sunderland area. Set up in 2001, it has invested over £500 million into homes and communities with a further £50 million per annum being reinvested in the community through wages and the supply chain. In 2011, almost 66 per cent of new homes in Sunderland were built by Gentoo (www.gentoogroup.com).

5) Social Finance is a not for profit organisation that partners with government, the social sector and the financial community to find better ways of tackling social problems in the UK. Founded in 2007, Social Finance has raised over £20m in social investment and is the originator of the Social Impact Bond (www.socialfinance.org.uk).

6) This deal has benefitted from support from the Cabinet Office’s £20m Investment and Contract Readiness Fund managed by Social Investment Business (www.beinvestmentready.org.uk).

7) Empower Community were advised by Norton Rose Fulbright (www.nortonrosefulbright.com/uk), Bates Wells Braithwaite (www.bwbllp.com) and NCM Fund Services (www.ncmfundservices.com).(back)