Belfast Telegraph

First community-owned solar energy project launches in Northern Ireland

By Gary Grattan

Northern Ireland's first community-owned solar energy enterprise has been launched.

NICE (Northern Ireland Community Energy) hopes to raise £150,000 to start installing PV solar panels on buildings owned by community groups and charities.

The new enterprise is the brainchild of a group of volunteers with a track record in renewable energy and co-operative models.

They developed a project which allows them to share technical expertise and grow the knowledge base throughout the province.

The enterprise is offering free installation of solar panels to a number of organisations.

The groups will benefit from electricity at a greatly discounted price for 20 years – while also supporting a more environmentally sustainable method of producing energy.

Any surplus energy will be sold to the electricity grid - and NICE plans to deliver a return of approximately 4% to investors, as well as investing in a community fund providing for energy saving improvements to tackle fuel poverty here.

Steven Agnew, Chair of the All Party Group on Co-operatives and Mutuals - hosting the launch in Stormont - said: “It is important that the benefit of public investment in renewable energy technology reaches as many people as possible, including those who may be fuel poor."

NICE is a community benefit society, which means participating building owners and individual investors co-own the enterprise on a ‘one-member one-vote’ basis.

“This project is ideal for a Community Share offer because it has clear community benefits and will deliver via a strong community model. Community-owned energy projects strengthen the local economy and build community resilience," said Tiziana O’Hara from Co-Operative Alternative.

Organisations wishing to participate are urged to contact NICE via its website on www.nicommunityenergy.org.

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