United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Utility offers wind shares to local people

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People living in the Cambridgeshire Fens in the east of England will be able to buy a stake in their neighbourhood wind power plants. The regional electricity distributor, Eastern Group, is to offer local residents shares in its three planned Fenland projects-each to be made up of three 750 kW wind turbines. Eastern hopes to sell 10% of the shareholding in the project to local people.

Under the share arrangements, Fenland residents will be able to invest in the projects through an independent company, Fenland Green Power Investments. Priority goes to people living near the proposed turbines at Manea, Christchurch and Coldham. A typical stake will be between £250 and £500-similar to a typical annual electricity bill. Eddie Hyams of Eastern Generation says: "Investors will have the satisfaction of combining a financial return with the knowledge that their money is invested in projects that are contributing to the control of global warming by producing clean green power."

The company behind the initiative is Wind Prospect, which developed the sites with the specific intention of creating community projects. Colin Palmer of Wind Prospect points out that for years the company had been looking at ways of giving local people a share in their neighbouring wind projects. At last it found a willing partner for its plans in Eastern, which is so far the only UK electricity company to pledge to source 10% of its energy from renewables by 2010.

Palmer believes the combination of a substantial partner such as Eastern, coupled with investment from local shareholders, provides a model for future community ownership. A large organisation with Eastern Group's financial clout can get developments off the ground-particularly in sparsely populated areas where local investment alone is not enough to fund multi-million pound projects. "What we have here is a system of community ownership which needs not be limited by the availability of local funds, gives greater security for investors and can be replicated widely," he says.

The three schemes-expected to cost a total £4.5 million-all have Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation power purchase contracts for their output. Wind Prospect has been completing environmental assessments for the three schemes and hopes to begin the planning permit process this month. If permitted, the first turbines could begin turning by April 2000.

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