The cost of our fuel bills is rising every year, so it makes sense to use alternative sources of energy. Once installed, solar panels on roofs provide free, clean, electricity – but they can be expensive to buy up-front.

At the end of 2015, we raised £250,000 of investment from the community to install solar panels on four local primary schools. (Ashmead and Horniman in Lewisham and Mulgrave and Charlton Park Academy and Mulgrave in Greenwich). We did this through a ‘community share offer’. The offer was open to all UK taxpayers with a share equal to £1. The minimum investment on offer was £250 and the maximum was £20,000.

There are several benefits to a community share offer. For our first project:

• We intend to pay 4% interest each year on our shareholders’ initial investment.
• Many investors were eligible for tax relief of 30% of their investment under the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). However this benefit has now been removed by the Chancellor.
• Shares may be exempt from inheritance tax if held for more than two years.

And what about the community and the environment?

• Overall SELCE’s solar arrays will save more than 94 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.
• The schools will save an estimated £358,000 in electricity costs over the 20-year project, enabling them to spend more money on the thing they really need.
• As well as paying interest and returning capital to investors, we aim to produce £90,000 of surplus over the life of the project. This will be used to expand the work we already do to reduce fuel poverty in South East London.

Share offer opened: 30th September 2015
Share offer closed: 12th November 2015

Minimum investment per member: £250
Maximum investment per member: £20,000

SELCE’s second solar share offer
We are now working on our next community share offer. Although there has been a lot of media coverage about the reduction in subsidies for solar energy, the changes will not affect our next project. This is because SELCE was able to ‘pre-accredit’ viable feed-in tariff rates on eight local community buildings before the cuts were introduced. With these rates in place, we will still be able to offer shareholders annual interest on their investment of around 4%.

We will be providing regular updates on our second community share offer through our blogs in the ‘news’ section of the website. And why not visit our Pledge page now.