Bristol Community Energy

Bristol Community Energy funds and develops renewable projects, to accelerate the energy transition.

2,100 t
Est. annual reduction in carbon
emissions (tonnes CO2 eq)

Our story

Back in 2011 a number of volunteers across Bristol wanted to take practical action to help shape the future of the city’s energy.

Working with specialists in the cooperative sector, our organisation was born. The mission was to fund and develop renewable projects, to accelerate the energy transition. Revenues from the schemes would be recycled back into the community, and the organisation would be democratically run, with one-member-one-vote irrespective of the amount people had invested. The aim was for investors to receive a financial, environmental and social return on their investment.

The structure we adopted to meet these aims was a Community Benefit Society.

Fast forward ten years, and the model’s been a success: over £14 million raised through commercial and community funding; our 1000+ members own 16 solar and battery storage projects, which together provide enough clean energy to power over 3,000 homes; our members have received an annual interest payment on their investment for each year that our schemes have been in operation; and we’ve facilitated over £300,000 of community benefit payments through our activities.

When we first started up, energy co-ops were fairly rare, but over the past decade community energy groups have sprung up across the UK as local communities take positive action in face of climate change. In 2019 a total of 300 community energy groups were developing low carbon projects across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Each community energy group is unique, but many share the same vibe of people coming together in their spare time to help develop green, clean, community owned energy.

For many groups it’s a passion, a deep commitment. And it’s rarely easy. Government policy towards our sector has been less than supportive for some time, but through ingenuity, persistence and huge volunteer effort, the sector has grown enormously, and some of the larger groups, including ours, now have some paid staff.

Our advice

Over the years we found that hosting events were a great way to build connections and support. These days, webinars are helping us to engage new investors and build trust. It's a brilliant model which feels like a win-win for all.

Our metrics

  • kWh of energy produced with renewables
  • How much money we have raised for Community Benefit funds
  • Number of members
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Engaging locals in the solar panels on Coniston Community Centre
163 solar panels fitted on Easton Community Centre in 2018
Rooftop PV fitted at Bristol Indoor Bowls Club