Schools’ Energy Co-op story
The not-for-profit scheme supports schools to cut their carbon emissions and generate green energy, saving them money and teaching children about sustainability. It works with the schools and local community groups to maximise the environmental, educational and community impact of the solar installations. The installation and maintenance costs of the systems are covered by share offers to the local community using a crowdfunding model.
The Schools’ Energy Co-operative was launched in 2014 to install solar panels at Glenleigh Park Primary Academy in East Sussex, which is still one of the largest community-owned solar energy systems in the UK. It has more than 750 members and has carried out installations on 80 schools across the UK.
In 2018 the co-op won the Community Energy Award for the most outstanding renewable electricity generation project undertaken by a community group. The following year, it won Inspiring Co-op of the Year at the Co-op of the Year Awards.
Mike Smyth, volunteer chair of the Schools’ Energy Co-operative, told Co-op News: “Installations save schools money on their electricity bills, which allows them to direct funds to other areas like books or playground equipment. And, importantly, they normalise green energy. Children see how renewable energy works, and it becomes a school-gates conversation, showing a way to help tackle the climate emergency at a local level.”
Schools' Energy Co-operative's story has been reproduced with kind permission from Change The Rules. Visit www.letschangetherules.org to discover inspiring new economy projects across the UK.
Image: Unsplash Stock Photo (Michael Wilson)
Useful learnings from Schools’ Energy Co-op
Many new school solar installations became uneconomic without the Feed‐In tariff which was discontinued in March 2019. However, the electricity price paid by schools to their electricity suppliers has increased since then, which has made the Co‐op’s offer more attractive. In addition, some new schools will pay more for their electricity than existing schools and arrangements with them will continue for longer – typically 25 years rather than 20 years.
To support schools in their use of these solar panels and the educational role they can play requires additional resources to develop these relationships with school members. This is an important role that should be factored into new projects and one that can be too easily overlooked.