Choosing a Legal Structure for a Community Energy Project
Connecting communities to their local renewable power supply seems to me to be one of the best ways to achieve a popular green revolution. Bottom-up action is always the most effective and sustainable and coming together to construct an Archimedes screw or windmill might be more appealing to a broader range of people than funding a new church roof.
Community schemes can also profoundly change attitudes to the visibility of renewable energy generating hardware in rural areas. A village might feel very differently about the aesthetics of a small wind farm or solar array if they know they are getting cheaper energy as a result of the project and/or have a stake in the sale of power from the project into the grid.
But getting community renewables projects off the ground is hard work. Long before any electrons start flowing there will be many months of careful business planning, painstaking financial modelling and the diligent establishment of a suitable legal entity.
In relation to this last point I have been asked on a couple of occasions recently to provide some advice on the appropriate legal entity for a community renewables project. I therefore thought it might be useful to publish the outcome here:
I hope the documents are helpful as a starting point for some groups trying to grapple with the legal aspects of a community project. The advice is only a starting point. I am not an expert in charity/co-op law and all groups should seek more learned opinions before taking any decisions. Please feel free to comment or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you disagree with any of the analysis or want to discuss any specific projects in more detail.