Greater Manchester Community Renewables answered some questions about what they do (and why), and the recent share offer.
1. So, what’s this “share offer”? What is GMCR, how long has it been going, what is it trying to achieve?
Greater Manchester Community Renewables (GMCR) is a community energy project which was founded back in 2015 by a group of volunteers who wanted to do something positive to help reduce carbon emissions.
Most schools can’t afford solar panels themselves, so GMCR raises the money for them. This is done through community share offers. in which people invest in the project and in return become a member of GMCR and receive share interest of up to 4% each year.
2. What sorts of people have been participating? What’s the average donation/funding?
So far we’ve raised over £300,000 in our first two share offers – most of this has come from individuals, as well as a handful of businesses, with roughly half locally from Greater Manchester and half from further afield.
The minimum investment is £100 and the maximum is £20,000 – we’ve had some at both ends of the scale, and to date, the average investment per member has been around £1,300.
3. What schools have now got solar panels? What impact has that had on their operations?
Since 2016, we’ve installed solar arrays at five primary schools in Salford – Broadoak, Fiddlers Lane, Irlam, Peel Hall and Primrose Hill – and a community centre called The Fuse in Partington (see photo).
So far the panels have generated over 300,000 kWh of electricity – enough to make 16 million cups of tea – and saved the partners over £7,000 on their energy bills.
And we’ve also worked with Manchester Environmental Education Network (MEEN) to support teachers to use the panels as a resource to help children (and parents) to learn about energy and climate change.
4. Shouldn’t our taxes pay for this sort of thing as a matter of course? It seems like a no-brainer. Are you lobbying central government, or Greater Manchester Combined Authority, or the various local authorities to support it?
Yes, that would make a lot of sense – but in the absence of this, we decided to take matters into our own hands and give people who have a bit of spare cash the chance to do something more positive with it and have a stake in the transition to clean energy.
We’re not a campaigning organisation, but we have engaged with local politicians and supported campaigns highlighting the damage that abrupt cuts to the Feed-in Tariff have caused, and calling for more support for renewable energy.
5. If someone wants to get involved beyond throwing money, what sorts of tasks do you have on offer? What sorts of skills and knowledge are you particularly looking out for?
Our volunteers help with a range of tasks – from social media and public engagement to project management and monitoring our solar arrays.
We’re also setting up a community fund, which is funded through project surpluses and donations of share interest, to support project in the communities around our sites.
So we’d love to hear from anyone who’s got experience with funds like this and in engaging with communities to encourage them to apply for funding.
6. Anything else you want to say (upcoming events, projects etc etc)
The main thing right now is our target to raise £100,000 by 5 July to fund solar panels on 3 more primary schools – so please do spread the word about the project to friends and colleagues (and wealthy relatives!).
For more information, check out our website at http://www.gmcr.org.uk/invest, or find us on Facebook and Twitter by searching for @WeAreGMCR.