The History of Energy4All really starts in the mid 1980s when an innovative Swedish Company came to the UK to establish the sort of community ownership of wind farms that was already common in Sweden. This was the beginning of Baywind, the UK’s first community wind farm co-operative.
Andrew King (E4All former Chairman) and his wife became founder members, half expecting never to see their money again. In fact, Baywind flourished and by 2001 owned and operated the whole project. It is now by far the oldest co-operatively owned wind farm in the UK, with over 1,300 members and a proud track record of stability and profit.
With the confidence gained from running Baywind, the management team became concerned at the lack of similar initiatives elsewhere. As a result, the Baywind membership enthusiastically supported the creation of Energy4All in 2002, to help other communities achieve the same as Baywind. For Andrew King and a few colleagues this was the point at which a part-time interest started to turn into a full time job.
We set out to combine the ethics of a not-for-profit social enterprise with best business practice. Energy4All has been fortunate to attract the support of many highly skilled and experienced individuals who have been prepared to give their time and effort as directors and advisors. As a result, the small Energy4All team has been able to make an unexpectedly big impact.
Energy4All has established a strong track record of success. We have created a series of innovative business models to fit local circumstances from the South of England to the Isle of Skye and raised well over 40m through a series of public share offers. Our 24 co-ops have well over 13,000 members and we have many other schemes in development. Energy4All also enjoys the support of the co-operative movement and in particular the Co-operative Bank, which is the primary source of £10m that Energy4All has borrowed to complete the financing of its projects.
Members join our co-operative for a variety of reasons. Some are attracted primarily by the environment principals that underpin all our work, whereas others are interested in a secure investment in an ethically sound business – our co-ops usually pay annual share interest of about 5% to 10% to their members.
Although wind power has been our main focus to date and there remain many opportunities in that sector, Energy4All is also working on small to medium sized projects in other technologies such as solar, hydro and anaerobic digestion. We have only just scratched the surface of the potential for community ownership of renewables in the UK and with the unfailing support of the members of our family of co-ops we look forward to playing an increasing influential role for many years to come.