Minutes of the Annual General Meeting
Held on Zoom video-conferencing, 25th September 2021 at 9:30am.
1. Welcome and Introductions:
Mike Smyth (Chair), welcomed members to the Energy4All Conference & AGM. Mike introduced and welcomed the 3 new members to Energy4All, Findhorn, Kinlochbervie and Lochaber.
2. Chair’s Review
Mike then gave a brief on Energy4All and their staff. He welcomed 5 new members of staff since the last AGM: Karly, Louise, Gina, Zach and John. During the year we lost Lee to British Aerospace in Barrow so in his absence I will say thank. I would also like to say a special thank you to Jack Heslop who is retiring.
Mike particularly thanked the staff of Energy4All for continuing their work on behalf of the Co-op seamlessly, despite the Covid issues and having to switch to working from home – not easy as many staff had young children and limited home working facilities.
We have had a longstanding relationship through Baywind with Findhorn. During the year they joined Energy4All. They are active in supporting community energy in the Moray area which is also a great benefit to us all because that area is active in both onshore and offshore wind.
Kinlochbervie is in the far north west of Scotland. Their hydro scheme has been actively supported by Energy4All members Energy Prospects and High Winds as well as Energy4All. We were particularly pleased that much of the funds for the project were raised from the community in and near Kinlochbervie.
Lochaber is the newest hydro project. They went on site in August and construction started in September. The share offer went live on the Friday of the Bank Holiday weekend and within 9 days it had reached its target of £1.9m. Once built it will be a 547kw project which will be the largest community owned hydro project in Britain. It may well be the last hydro project built in Britain for the foreseeable future, as hydro projects have been reliant on the Feed-in tariff and it seems unlikely that they will be cost effective without it.
Energy4All is a co-operative of 31 independent community energy co-operatives which co-operate to deliver a shared mission and meet operational and administrative needs, develop and share expertise, deliver future community energy through a shared development team and deliver representation. Energy4All is self-financing and non-profit distributing.
The highest profile activity in the year is the share offers, which in 2020/21 included: Highland - Feorline - £229,000 – December 2020; Kinlochbervie – £707,000 – February & June 2021; Lochaber - £1,880,000 – September 2021; Edinburgh – £660,000 - October 2020; Glasgow - £30,000 – April 2021; and smaller “top up” share issues for Repower Balcombe, Energise South and Wey Valley Solar.
There was also a lot of other financial activity too because a lot of the other co-ops are redeeming shares. There have also been some complicated financial restructurings, the most prominent being at West Solent which took a lot of work and is now successfully running in a new format.
There were 7 Energy4All members (in addition to the new members) adding more renewable projects in the last year primarily rooftop solar. At least another 9 Energy4All members were engaged in other development work such as preparation for new projects or were very active in developing other aspects of co-operative community energy, such as trading with members.
Mike said he had discussed developments in the community energy sector generally with Community Energy England who had said that active development was focused on Energy4All and its existing and new members and the handful of large co-ops (often grant supported) with their own staff. The rest of the sector was struggling. This showed the value and effectiveness of the Energy4All co-operative model to delivering development for its members and for new projects.
Mike then highlighted a couple of development activities which were a bit different. Springbok, which is the wood heat district heating system, is now using local wood. It’s built a huge barn to store chip from the local woodland. It has been operating wood chip self-supply now for a full year. The wood used is not of timber value. It would usually be abandoned or more often than not be burnt on site. The effect of bringing the woodland which is the source of the wood back into management has been to open up the wood, increase the amount of light and bring an abundance of nature back into the woodland. 5 years ago, there was only 1 species of butterfly spotted and so far, this year we are up to 27 species. A rare butterfly, the Wood White has been spotted, and the woodland is being managed with support from Butterfly Conservation to provide a suitable habitat for this butterfly.
Since putting the solar panels on Salisbury Cathedral a year ago we have been approached by another cathedral (St Edmondsbury) to see if we can do something similar.
We are pleased to say that another partnership arrangement has been launched with Community Energy Wandsworth working in south-west London; and Reading co-operative has launched a partnership with the Borough of Wokingham. We think the partnership approach, with new groups working in partnership with existing ones rather than setting themselves up as a totally standalone organisation, is often the most effective way to develop in a post subsidy world.
During the last year a lot of the work has been done in the office. One of the key developments is that we are trying to do some mechanisation on the meter readings for roof top solar, linking into the billing, FIT claims and accounts.
Looking ahead, what should the new project focus be? What works now in a post subsidy world? Where can we all make a difference? Behind the meter solar is clearly deliverable. There’s a lot less competition and this is where local knowledge and contacts are crucial. We are making a difference in this area. Increasingly large-scale solar farms and onshore wind in Scotland and Wales are about to resume development. Offshore wind works.
We aim to have an element of work focused on innovation. We are still working on heat which we think is going to be an important focus going forward, where communities can have a key role. Some supportive local authorities are keen to work with Community Energy which links into microgrids (real or virtual) and storage. During the next decade we anticipate an increased focus on a hybrid of technology and behaviour – with community engagement?
Anticipated share offers for 2021/22 include Schools Energy Co-op, Dundee, Reading, Midcounties, Drumlin and other existing members, and potential new projects at Garvie, North Lincs and Fife. There are further potential pipeline projects and Energy4All is constantly being approached with potential new approaches and members.
One particular highlight is that Energy4All has joined a consortium to have a community offshore wind turbine which, if it happens, will be the biggest Energy4All – and community energy - project so far. It will be with Falck.
Other partners are BlueFloat Energy who are technology specialists on floating windfarms and Orsted which is the largest windfarm operator and developer in the world and hasn’t done anything like this before. We will be seeking public support for community ownership of offshore wind.
It is not easy doing development. We have to follow up a number of projects most of which do not happen.
Other planned developments for the forthcoming year include office system efficiencies, asset management and strategic asset management, securing power purchase agreements, our “Beyond Generation project – aiming to support and improve deliver of co-operative values and managing the community benefit funds, member trading, education and other non-generation activities; work on Energy4All itself becoming net zero and work on our governance.
The development team is a team of about 7 who are funded by the surplus from management and administration fees, which varies and this year is around £80,000, and principally by charges for development work, either consultancy fees or particularly share offer charges when we are launching new projects.
We are undertaking a review of the governance of Energy4All. We have had several evolutions since we started. When I first started, we had 6 co-ops and they were all very well-known and linked to the Barrow team. The relationships which we have now have to be very different with 31 members. So, we have evolved things like the role of the conference, but we haven’t got that right yet. We have discussed different ideas and a co-operative council has been suggested, and we will explore that.
The key decision to make is on our strategic priorities and the development work that we undertake and when considering that you need to be aware of the resource constraints that we have. We will be running a consultation over the next few months to see how we can improve our governance and aim to have a good discussion in our next conference. This will be in Glasgow on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd April 2022.
Q. Vivian - You mentioned about prioritising, but I wonder whether the capacity of Energy4All is a constraint on the growth of community energy because obviously there is masses more to do and masses more potential.
Mike – We are not the community energy sector we are just a group of 31 out of several hundred energy organisations who are in most cases individual operators and in some cases linked into a couple of other groups. The Energy4All ones are really those who group together to provide resources in co-operation and so we are limited by the scale we are.
Q. Mike Blanch – one of his frustrations is that we are a key part of the community sector, a leading part he would say, and we shouldn’t underestimate how important that is and he was just wondering how us as a community energy sector actually interact with the energy sector. How do we get more community ownership?
Mike – to a large extent it has been driven by government regulation so there was purple patch for community energy about 10 years ago when it was favoured and all sites were encouraged to have a community element and that led to a lot of solar farms which were community owned as an add on to a commercial solar farm. ScotWind has made a broader set of criteria as a requirement for being granted offshore leases. They are also taking a broader approach and certainly Falck, Orsted and BlueFloat think that having a community element strengthens their bid which is part of a competitive process. The scale of these offshore turbines is colossal. The turbine that we are looking at costs about £50m. We are bidding for 5 sites and if we won all 5 would have to raise £250m. That would be a nice challenge!
Q. Colin – Do you foresee any involvement in energy storage?
Mark – For Westmill Wind and Westmill Solar I can say we are working with the Oxfordshire Low Carbon Hub which has funding to look at this area because we think the site where there is wind and solar generation is a good potential site for storage. We have done some early mapping looking to see when the electricity is generated and I think both boards would like to see that project come forward. The next stage would be to see if it is viable and the advice that we have had is that storage on its own is not viable. It has to do more than one thing. We are talking to members about that but the business case needs to be made.
John – Edinburgh Solar have got demonstration projects at the moment in 3 schools looking at energy storage.
Mike - One other project which we have been invited to participate in is through Innovation UK looking at a whole town approach to de-carbonisation.
3. Financial Presentation
Annette went through the Profit and Loss sheet and the Balance Sheet. Turnover was slightly down compared to last year. Over 60% of our turnover now is related to Management and Admin. Now that was up by £118,000 in 2020 primarily because we brought more co-ops online so we had more admin fees to bring in. Also, a number of our co-ops pay Energy4All a fee linked to their turnover, and thus their production as well. 2020 was a bumper year for generation so that was one of the main reasons for increases in income on the management side. However, we also have development income and that is down on the previous year because we haven’t developed as many sites as we would like to see; and with the decline of the feed in tariff and the ROC development is going to continue to be difficult.
Our cost of sales is slightly less than last year. We did take on more project staff, however with Covid we have seen the travel costs reduced. So, we have seen a reduction. Gross profit is therefore pretty much the same as last year.
Now a few interesting facts. We took on more staff so we had salary increases and recruitment fees but again because of Covid we saw at least a £13,000 decrease in travel, subsistence and telephone costs, primarily from working from home and no movement. We did see remote working increase costs on the IT side of things as we set things up. Other operating income of £10,000 was the Covid grant which was extremely important to us so that we could set up this homeworking system. Interest received – Energy4All has shares in many of the co-ops and mainly that relates to the interest we have received during the year. Interest payable of £12,000 relates to the money Energy4All lent money to RainePower for their Killington site and those of you who are members will know it has had its problems so what we have here is we have reduced the value of that loan for the time being until we sort the issues out. So, we have a pre-tax profit of £5,607 compared to £432 last year. We have a tax bill of £1,066 so final profit of £4,541.
On the balance sheet, fixed assets have gone up even though we depreciate the assets by a third each year. We had to buy more laptops for remote working and other equipment. Investments have gone down because some of the co-ops have made equity redemptions. Cash is £118,636. The £2,030 in provision for liabilities is future tax liability. Our net assets are £163,208 which is made up of share capital and reserves from previous years.
John Malone introduced Rachel Hayes who is the Associate Director of Regen. Regen is a centre of energy expertise who are committed to facilitate work towards net zero. Rachel is also a Director of the Energy Storage Network as well as being on the Board of CEE. She is currently seconded to Cabinet Office COP26. Rachel is also a Founder and Director of WIRE which is Women in Renewable Energy and supports the role of women in the energy sector. She was awarded the British Empire Medal in 2017 for her work in the energy sector.
Rachel went on to discuss some of the things that she is optimistic about. As we know COP26 will take place in Glasgow and is only 5 weeks away. Paris delivered a promise that the world would act on climate change and now Glasgow must show that really is a reality. Glasgow is part of the 5-year ratchet mechanism where you come back with your NDC’s and you really ratchet those out for greater climate ambition, and this is all couched in keeping the 1.5 degrees within reach.
Christiana Figueres did a Regen talk and said it is equivalent to 800 scientists screaming at us about the importance of climate change and that’s as loud as scientists can really scream so I think that it has really set the tone and set where we need to be with COP and climate ambition. We have seen that all G7 countries responsible for almost half of Global GDP have committed to deep cuts in their omissions over the next decade and the tables have turned to the G20 and seeing that action from across G20 countries and without them if they don’t step up, we just can’t get there.
This morning I was hopeful after seeing 2 of the world’s largest emitters take clear steps that they are committed to successful COP. The US has helped clear the deadlock on $100 billion. That is the clear finance goal essential for the developing world to help them accelerate their clean energy ambitions and also some percentage of that to address the climate challenge. There’s still some way to go on that but momentum is really building and the money from the US has really helped.
On the energy side, the bit that I was most excited about was China ending international finance for coal power. Banks and the public sector have turned their backs on coal and coal is on the way out. I hope to see the developing world springboard from ending coal and just going to clean energy. Wind and solar is by far the cheapest and is outstripping coal and gas around the world.
In the coming months we need to see the US and China really come together and collaborate to make COP successful.
Number 10 and Boris have done some really good speeches this week. We announced that the UK are signing up to the Global Methane Pledge run by the US and EU around ending methane reductions by 30% by 2030 and he did a good speech at the Leader Summit.
It is very encouraging the amount of interest that Number 10 is showing in COP and climate.
We are still a long way from where we need to be in terms of NDC’s. Not everyone has submitted an NDC. South Africa came forward with a new NDC this week.
We are seeing a lot of rallying and call for action from the vulnerable countries, those that are at the worst end of climate change and everybody wants to see the G20 go further.
Q. John wanted to know what the commitment was on the 100 billion i.e. annual or 10-year commitment?
Rachel – It is an annual finance climate goal. There’s a number of things that we are seeing for Community Energy and COP. Chairing a round table, events and spinoff things which are exciting and then there’s community networks to try and encourage the support. There’s also a toolkit, Together for our Planet that you can use for local action. There’s Together for our Planet Lottery fund and that is post COP as well. Big Green week which has gained a lot of attraction - about 2,500 events.
The Community Energy Sector has about 96,000 members, keen to see change.
Q. Annette – Do you think that we need to concentrate on educating people on climate change and renewable energy?
Rachel - That’s a really good question. There is meant to be a behaviour change campaign coming out post COP. It’s a big area that we need to do masses on.
Q. Miranda – I’m based in the Highlands and I think that people want to do things differently but I think that at times people get frustrated with the bigger part or it and the smaller part of it and the link between the 2. We need to make it more accessible for people. We need to make things more real for people so they can see difference.
Rachel – I agree that the Sector is very good at writing reports full of acronyms and it doesn’t make it accessible. Community Energy England and Regen have tried to make what we have been doing in the sector digestible.
Q. Miranda – in terms of businesses how do we promote that?
Rachel – I don’t really have the solution for that. I think developers need to take engagement in their local communities.
Q. Julia – How do we do that if we are trying to be involved in big projects. How do we model that behaviour?
Rachael – I think we need more of it and the development needs to be easier.
John – A lot of effort goes into building the projects whether they be community owned or shared ownership.
Q. Doug – We are working in an environment where people are now more worried about climate and environment than they have ever been and the timetables for delivery are now, so the people who are going to have to do it are the people in charge now. I also found Johnstone’s speech pretty extraordinary given some historic attitudes. It was better late than never. My question is for the Community Energy sector. We all feel that we are offering something different from commercial developers: how is the environment policy and support going to be different at the end of Nov to how it is now? How is COP going to help in shifting on our sector?
Rachel – I am quite fortunate in that I have seen quite a lot of the draft policy that is coming round from the government so have seen them committed on the draft net strategy and in the second version there is quite a mention of Community Energy. It made me feel there was a bit of a turn. Generally having Number 10 interested in climate even if it is just seeing COP over the line is encouraging.
Q. Kathy – Should we be going on a Community Energy Charm Offensive at the end of COP showing what can be done?
Rachel – As part of their local community engagement Patricks team for COP are collating huge amounts of case studies to try and build that case. So, using some of that material and to support that kind of charm offensive approach could be really helpful.
John – It will be interesting to see what happens after COP.
Q. Vivian – If you look at the percentage of renewable power being generated by community projects now and look at what it was 10 years ago, I feel that it may be a smaller percentage because I fear that the sheer volume of money going into renewables in the private sector is massive. Every week you see a new one being launched. I wonder if there is any plans or thoughts of how we can scale up. How we can access the huge pools of money that are there. Should we be using more debt finance and refinancing what we are doing and pushing out and doing more developments rather than waiting for each community to do it themselves. Do we need to think in a different way?
Mark – I certainly think it is a serious issue across a number of countries. One of the things that Energy4All helped do is form a co-operative called Mecise mobilising European citizens to invest in sustainable energy. It is a co-op based in Belgium of 6 organisations and we are starting to see how we can invest in larger projects mobilising citizens across Europe to do so. We are looking at a major wind farm in the Netherlands at the moment.
Mike thanked Rachel and all members for attending and participating in the meeting.
The meeting closed at 11:00am.
Mike Smyth, Chair
Energy 4All Limited