Trust helps Londonderry YMCA Go Solar
Peter Caldwell (left) from Londonderry YMCA with Jo Bird from Co-Operative Alternatives and Andrew McMurray from NICE.

Trust helps Londonderry YMCA Go Solar

21 April 2015

The YMCA in Londonderry will be opting for solar power as they join forces for with Northern Ireland Community Energy (NICE), a community-owned co-operative that aims to help the community and voluntary sector while providing green energy.

NICE is supported by Co-operative Alternatives, delivering the Community Shares, Ready! project commissioned by the Building Change Trust, to increase awareness of Community Shares in Northern Ireland.

Members of the public and third sector organisations are invited to come along to a public meeting on Friday, 24th April at 11.30am at the Glenshane Road YMCA to find out more.

“We anticipate that the solar panels will help us save approximately 60% of our electricity costs. We’ve been looking at our controllable costs and were really interested in solar energy but in the past we couldn’t afford it,” explained YMCA manager Willie Lamrock.

NICE will install the panels at no cost to the YMCA in the next few weeks, making this a viable option for the organisation for the first time.

“As an organisation, we want to proactively do all that we can for the environment. With NICE, not only will we be saving money but they also help the community and voluntary sector,” Mr Lamrock added.

NICE is Northern Ireland’s first community owned solar energy enterprise and recently launched a Community Share offer that has raised £100,000 so far.

They aim to raise £150,000 by April 30th which will allow them to install panels on buildings that are owned by N.I. third sector organisations such as community groups and charities.

These groups will benefit from electricity at a greatly discounted price for twenty years – while also supporting a more environmentally sustainable method of producing energy.

Any surplus energy will be sold to the electricity Grid and NICE hopes to be able to deliver a return of approximately 4% to investors/members as well as investing in a community fund providing for energy saving improvements to tackle fuel poverty in Northern Ireland.

NICE was also granted approval by HMRC for the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) tax incentive which means that individuals investing in qualifying organisations like NICE can benefit for 50% tax relief on the cost of the shares.

The new enterprise is the brainchild of a group of volunteers with a track record in renewable energy and co-operative models.

They developed a community solar project that would allow them to create economies of scale, shared technical expertise, and to grow the knowledge base in Northern Ireland.

NICE is a Community Benefit society meaning that participating building owners such as the YMCA and individual investors become members of the co-operative and co-own the enterprise on a ‘one-member one-vote’ basis.

Jo Bird, from Co-operative Alternatives, said: “This project shows it is possible to raise community shares for enterprises with a strong community and social impact. NICE is a community benefit society and shows that 'community ownership' is gaining support in our region.

"Members of NICE care about social return, community impact and environmental benefits and the way they deal with NICE profit is a demonstration of that. Such co-operatives show a viable alternative economic models".

The public meeting on April 24th is open to all – there will be speakers from the YMCA, NICE and Co-Operative Alternatives and a light lunch will be served.

To book a free place contact 07740 508457.