Energise Barnsley 

David Malsom, Group Leader for Energy and Buildings at Barnsley Council, describes the work of Energise Barnsley. 

What is Energise Barnsley? 

Energise Barnsley is a local authority-backed rooftop solar photo voltaic (PV) and battery storage community project; it’s the largest of its kind in the UK by the number of roofs the solar project has been installed on.  

There are two sides to this project: the installation of energy-saving equipment, and a community bond.  

What is the purpose of Energy Barnsley? 

Energise Barnsley has 6 broad delivery themes: 

  • Reduction of fuel poverty 

  • Help support the most vulnerable in our community 

  • Develop our community’s resilience 

  • Reduction of carbon emissions via the use of technology  

  • Educate residents on energy saving and low carbon technology 

  • Demonstrate how communities can work with local authorities to deliver long-term sustainable infrastructure 

What work has been done to reduce carbon emissions? 

330 council homes have had solar PVs installed via Energise Barnsley, in addition to a number of council-owned buildings. A smaller number of properties have had smart battery technology and control systems with 600 dual-purpose air source heat pump (ASHP) installations. This included installing landlines and broadband in addition to the batteries.  

What are the financial benefits of renewable energy technologies to residents? 

Because we have installed energy saving equipment, tenants collectively have saved over £40,000 a year in reduced electricity bills. The tenants whose homes have smart battery technology as well as solar PVs now have electricity bills which are approximately 75% or more less (in relative terms) than they were pre-solar and pre-battery. 

What are the energy saving and climate benefits? 

The systems generate over 800 MWhs of renewable electricity, and over 400 tonnes of reduced carbon emissions.  

This project is a key part of Barnsley Council Net Zero 45, which has contributed over 3,000 tonnes of reduced CO2 emissions to date.  

What is the Barnsley Solar Bond? 

The second part of the project - the Barnsley Solar Bond - is a way of encouraging investment into this green transition. The bond raised £800,000 in investment in under three months. This five-year bond allows people to invest for a fair financial return (5%) while making a meaningful social and environmental impact in the area. Over 40% of the community bond members are from the Yorkshire region.  

How does the local community benefit from the Barnsley Solar Bond? 

Surpluses from the scheme are used to fund the community solar fund. This has funded numerous social enterprises with diversified local social impact, and played a key role in the funding of various community and charity projects. For example, this year our local Credit Union has received funding to offer solutions around fuel debt. 

In 2018, the project won the Collaboration Award sponsored by Power to Change for the most commendable collaboration between the community, commercial, public and third sector partners. 

What are you planning to do next? 

In the future, we plan to work with other technologies and new project structures. Currently we are developing a new programme which will see significant capital investment into new PV installations by using the existing feed in tariff to support the capital expenditure. This will be a UK first for a community owned PV project.