North Belfast Charity Goes Solar with Help from Trust

North Belfast Charity Goes Solar with Help from Trust

04 June 2015

The Ashton Centre in North Belfast is 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 has installed the panels at no cost to the Ashton Centre, making this a viable option for the organisation.

Ciara Rea, Head of Corporate Service said "Ashton Centre is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and this is a great opportunity to work with NICE to meet this objective using a cooperative model. 

"Solar panels are environmentally friendly and will be the major energy source for the future and we are delighted to be part of this".

NICE is Northern Ireland’s first community owned solar energy enterprise and recently launched a Community Share offer to raise enough capital to install solar panels on the roofs of up to 9 buildings that are owned by Northern Ireland third sector organisations such as community groups and charities.

Karen Arbuckle, Director of NICE, explained “The community buildings 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 will be able to deliver a return of approximately 4% to investors/members as well as to create a community fund. The community fund will then be used again in local communities 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 community share offer will be open until the 23rd June 2015 and with a minimum purchase of 250 shares at £1 each, local members are welcome.

The new enterprise is the brainchild of a group of volunteers with a track record in renewable energy and co-operative models. NICE is a Community Benefit society meaning that participating community buildings and individual investors become members of the co-operative and co-own the enterprise on a ‘one-member one-vote’ basis.

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.

“This project confirms the possibility of using innovative ways to raise capital for initiatives with a strong community and social impact. NICE is a community co-operative and shows that “community ownership” is gaining space in our region.

NICE members care about social return, community impact and environmental benefits and the way they deal with NICE profit is a demonstration of that. There are viable alternative economic models out there,” Tiziana O’Hara from Co-Operative Alternatives said.