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.

Invest now

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.

What’s the catch? There isn’t one!

It’s a virtuous circle: our school ‘partners’ received solar panels that are installed and maintained free of charge; our investors received a good return on their investment and SELCE receives an income to support its work to reduce fuel poverty in the capital.

FAQs

What are the financial benefits for me?

1. The directors of SELCE intend to pay 4% return on your investment. Based on our financial model, we forecast that, in our base case, we will be able to provide a 4% interest rate to members – with full capital repayment in or before year 20.

2. Exemption from inheritance tax: our shares also attract Business Property Relief, meaning they are exempt from Inheritance, provided the shares have been held for at least two years. See https://www.gov.uk/business-relief-inheritance-tax for further guidance.

What are the benefits for the Community?

For the Schools: Our school partners will benefit from reduced electricity costs. Taken together, the schools will save around £358,000 on electricity bills over the 20-year lease period. What’s more, each school will get special solar display that will monitor the output of the panels and provide an educational tool for pupils.

For those struggling to pay their fuel bills: There are 21,342 households in Greenwich and Lewisham that are forced to choose between heating their homes and buying other essentials. SELCE is committed to tackling fuel poverty head on. We will use any financial surplus from our renewable generation work to fund support for those who are most vulnerable. We have estimated that the cumulative contribution to our fuel poverty fund will amount to £90,000 over 20 years.

For everyone: By generating electricity from the sun, SELCE’s project will result in an approximate carbon emissions reduction of 92 metric tonnes of CO2 every year.

What does being a Member of SELCE mean?

When you buy SELCE shares you become a member of SELCE. This means that you will be invited to the AGM, receive newsletter updates and have lots of opportunities to feed into the organisation. In accordance with cooperative principals, all decisions are made on the basis of one member one vote, regardless of the size of shareholding. All members can stand for election to the board of directors. Becoming a SELCE shareholder is therefore an invitation to get involved as much (or as little) as you like.

What are Withdrawable Shares?

Shares in SELCE are different than shares you may have in public or other private companies. By law, you are not able to sell or otherwise transfer your investment and the project has been designed to encourage long-term investment. Our members will be able to apply to withdraw funds after three years on a quarterly basis at the discretion of the board but it will depend on what funds are available and what impact withdrawals will have on the good of the co-operative and its stakeholders. We would ask potential investors to consider a SELCE investment as a ‘pension-booster’ or a ‘college fund’ for your children.

What are the risks associated with becoming a SELCE shareholder?

The directors of SELCE believe that this offering is comparatively low risk because we will be receiving a guaranteed income in the form of a feed-in-tariff. This is a government mandated subsidy paid to those that produce renewable energy. Once the solar panels are installed, SELCE will receive a guaranteed payment for every unit of renewable electricity generated and an additional payment for every unit of electricity exported to the grid for the next 20 years.

However as with all risk investments withdrawable shares could lose some, or all of their value and they are not protected by the Governments Financial Services Compensation Scheme or the Financial Ombudsman Service. Read the share offer prospectus paying particular attention to the analysis of risks.

I’ve heard that the feed-in tariff rate is being reduced. Won’t that affect SELCE’s ability to pay annual interest to shareholders?

On 27th Aug the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced the government’s intention to review the Feed in Tariff scheme. The proposed reductions in the Feed in Tariff proposed for installations commissioned after 1st Jan 2016 are substantial. However SELCE have pre-registered all installations in its two solar energy projects(2015 and 2016). Pre-registration is a facility that allows Community Benefit Societies such as SELCE to receive a ‘tariff guarantee’ valid for one year from the pre-registration application date. SELCE successfully applied for pre-registration for installations on all of the Schools. So, in short, the proposed reductions in solar subsidies won’t affect this project unless SELCE fails to install before the pre-registration period has elapsed.

What happens if a future government retrospectively withdraws the feed in tariffs completely?

We think this is highly unlikely. Once renewable energy is installed and the Feed-in-Tariff has been granted, continued payment of it is guaranteed by primary legislation. Further legislation would be required for in order to withdraw the Feed-in-Tariff once granted; this we think would be difficult in the face of opposition from the renewables and the environmental sector. If the FIT were rescinded or abolished for exiting projects before the end of 20 years, we believe that SELCE (along with every other installer of solar PV in the country) would have a legitimate claim for any remaining expected revenue.

What happens if the ownership of the property changes? Do the panels stay the property of SELCE and will they be allowed to continue producing energy for shareholders?

Yes. Our lease agreements stipulate that we have use of the roofs in our projects for 20 years and this will continue regardless of who owns the property.