Benefits of Baywind Energy Co-operative
The first substantial renewable energy cooperative in the UK, Baywind was fortunate to enter the field at the time renewable energy sources were being favored under the NFFO policy. After operating costs and servicing the depreciation fund, the profits derived from electricity generation were paid annually over 19 years to the shareholders. From the formation of Baywind in 1996, members got a competitive pre-tax return on their investment of 5-6.6%. Through the Enterprise Investment Scheme(EIS), eligible members could claim back 20% tax on their initial investment, increasing the return to between 7 and 8%. The coop had set a minimum shareholding of £300, thereby spreading local participation, to a maximum of £20,000. Membership grew to nearly 1400, with preference given to local applicants. Baywind has proved over the past 19 years that this structure has been commercially successful and brought significant benefits to the local community. It provided a model for new community coops in the UK.
The coop uses local contractors for site works, maintenance, and support services. A community trust funded by Baywind has promoted energy conservation and educational projects in the local community. Baywind Energy Community Trust (BWECT) provides information and grants for efficiency measures within the Furness area to individual homes and community organisations, and responds to requests for donations. This direct involvement increases awareness of environmental issues at the grass roots level. Local sports clubs, schools and community centres have been given grants to help complete refurbishment and insulation work, the latest being £5K for a boiler at the Lindal Cricket Club’s new pavilion.
In 2003 the directors took the decision, rather than to expand Baywind, to create Energy4All as a vehicle for promoting new community Coops in the UK and managing other companies and build a portfolio. That year, the members agreed to fund the start-up of E4All, a move which greatly benefitted the UK community energy movement. E4All has worked with CoopsUK to promote the cooperative model and to follow the principles of member control, education and mutual help. E4All continues to look for opportunities for new projects and has frequently drawn on the goodwill of Baywind to provide bridging finance from the depreciation fund for coops at the founding stage, when banks would have insisted on over-onerous loan conditions.
Due to changes in company legislation, the re-powering of the Harlock Hill site near Ulverston, Cumbria carried out in 2016 needed the creation of a new ‘BenCom’, High Winds, leaving Baywind with its capital fund and a small stake in a neighbouring windfarm at Haverigg, Cumbria, due for de-commissioning in 2018. Meantime the capital fund is being used to support two new coops, with a limited number of members opting to redeem their shares in advance of a formal winding up of the Baywind. The legacy of Baywind is the successful operation of a community coop over 2 decades and a thriving market for community energy coops, in an unstable legal and financial climate of alternating incentives and legal obstacles.
Baywind Board member 1996-2016