Whats it like being NICE
The Trust's Nigel McKinney at the Stormont launch of NICE's Community Shares Offer.

Whats it like being NICE

31 March 2015

Northern Ireland Community Energy (NICE) is being supported by Co-operative Alternatives, a co-operative commissioned by the Building Change Trust to run its Community Shares, Ready! pilot project to increase awareness of Community Shares in Northern Ireland. We found out more about their work.

NICE is a new not for profit community benefit society. It is the first solar, community owned, co-operative, in Northern Ireland. It is the brainchild of, and run by a group of volunteers, with a track record in renewable energy and co-operative models.

They engage and work in partnership with local communities to establish and develop community owned renewable energy projects allowing the Co-Op to create economies of scale, share technical expertise, and to grow the knowledge base in Northern Ireland.

Breaking Tradition

Traditional energy companies aim to maximise profit reaching a small number of individuals. NICE is based on a decentralised and far more equitable model (EU & UK tried & tested) which helps the environment, helps the local community, and is built upon principles of fairness.

For the first project phase NICE want to raise, through community share offer, £150,000, to enable free installation of solar PV panels on approx. 9 roofs (ranging between 4kW & 20kW), of buildings that are used for the benefit of the community in Northern Ireland such as community associations/groups, charities, churches, community sports halls and other social enterprises.

The purpose of installing solar PV arrays on community buildings is to:-

  • Reduce carbon emissions;
  • Showcase low carbon technologies within the community;
  • Provide an opportunity for local residents to own a stake in the provision of essential local services and
  • Provide discounted renewable energy to users of the community building for twenty years and any electricity not used by the community building will be sold to the electricity Grid.

Share Offer

NICE will generate revenue from the sale of electricity and receive income from the ROCs (Renewable Obligation Certificates.) Each kilowatt hour generated will earn 4 ROCs which currently are worth 16.32p.

The minimum share offer investment for any individual or organisation is set at £250 (to reduce administration costs) up to a maximum of £20,000. 

The share offer is expected to be eligible for tax relief under SEIS @ 50% of the value of their shares.  Investors must ensure they read the share offer document in full and take their own financial and tax advice appropriate to their circumstances.

A projected annual surplus over expenses will enable NICE to pay an interest on shares to members.  The Co-Op hopes to be able to deliver a return of approximately 4% per annum to investors as well as investing in a community fund, providing for further future energy saving improvements, to address and tackle fuel poverty in Northern Ireland and related issues as decided by NICE members.

Pilot Project

Investment will be put to work straight away.  As a Co-Op our abiding principle is ‘one-member one-vote’-this means participating building owners and individual investors irrespective of their investment co-own the enterprise and each and all will have an equal say.

NICE completed a pilot installation in February 2015 on the roof of Mediation NI’s offices at University Street, Belfast – a 4kW PV array. 

This pre-launch installation was important for NICE in demonstrating the directors’ commitment and confidence in the project as a whole and it also gave vital and very positive feedback from the business.

Share Offer Open

NICE officially launched and opened its share offer on 3rd March 2015 at the All Party Group on Co-Operatives and Mutuals, in Stormont. 

Between now and the share offer closing on 30th April 2015, NICE will be continuing its promotion of its enterprise by engaging with the local community through various media forums.

The Co-Op has a number of potential community buildings interested in participating in this scheme.   

NICE will continue to work with these third sector groups in moving forward. 

Other organisations that may wish to participate are urged to contact NICE via the website www.nicommunityenergy.org.

NICE believes this community share offer is a great opportunity for both individuals and organisations who believe in community ownership and want to help community resilience, to invest in local initiatives which in turn will benefit local communities.

To find out more phone 028 9073 6075 or email:            info@nicommunityenergy.org

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