British Gas ignites PV ambitions with $100 million UK investment


The solar division of U.K. utility British Gas – British Gas Solar – has announced that it will work with two community-focused schemes on a $100 million project to add solar PV capacity to a number of government-owned sites around the U.K.

Gen Community, a community benefit society that works in the low-carbon sector, will identify and oversee the projects, with British Gas Solar acting as contractor for the installations, ensuring quality assurance and maintenance for the 20-year duration of each array.

Financing will be raised by Social Finance – a not-for-profit organization that partners with government, the social sector and the financial community to find ways of tackling the U.K.'s social problems. The organization will coordinate the $100 million required via institutional loan capital, which will be based on a 20-year, inflation-linked, amortizing, asset-backed Social Solar Bond.

Beneficiaries of this solar collaboration will be schools, town halls and other local government sites right across the U.K. Gen Community will identify suitable locations that will be able to take advantage of the current feed-in tariff (FIT), with all financial benefits generated from the solar panels to be re-invested back into local communities.

British Gas Solar is targeting a potential 8,000 rooftop installations, with the aim being to use the money saved to support local social enterprises and educational services while, at the same time, alleviating fuel poverty.

"Our partnership with Gen Community signals a breakthrough in the delivery of community energy across the U.K.," said British Gas' head of energy construction services, Mike Chessum. "We are proud to be the first commercial energy partner working alongside social enterprises that will provide new ways of delivering power to communities."

The director of Gen Community, James Mansfield, called the partnership an exciting chance to deliver renewable energy "both professionally and to a commercial standard," while stressing that community ownership values lay at the core of the project.

Richard Speak, head of sustainable communities at Social Finance, added: "Community energy deals can act as catalyst for mainstream investment markets to align financial returns with tangible social impact. These deals help alleviate fuel poverty for our poorest households and bring the financial benefits back in to the communities."

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