Marks and Spencer – Community Energy Scheme

Background

Historically, community energy initiatives have fallen into two categories, depending on where they draw their members from. Investors come from either the local area where the project is located or where the community is geographically scattered are made up of people with a shared passion. However, we’re proud to have helped M&S develop a new type of community energy scheme – where a corporate institution engages the community energy approach to finance renewable schemes.

The M&S Energy Society used crowdfunding to back the installation of solar panels on its stores. Partnering with Energy4All, M&S set the aim of raising £1.23m to put panels on nine of its large stores including Torbay in Devon, Truro in Cornwall and Cheshunt in Hertfordshire.

The fund invited investments of between £100 and £100,000 to install and own 891kWh-worth of panels for 20 years from which the retailer will buy energy.

Lydia Hopton, Plan A project manager described the project as “a great opportunity for customers to invest in green energy and help the environment, while also supporting local community groups.” M&S are the first retailer to launch a scheme of this kind and Joju are proud of their involvement in helping plan the scheme.

Profits from M&S Energy Society will be distributed through a community benefit fund to help support local energy-related projects, such as improving insulation on community buildings or helping local residents cut fuel consumption. Members of the scheme will be able to vote on the charities and initiatives which benefit.

This new type of model is driven by the parallels between community energy schemes and corporate sustainability strategy.  In particular M&S’s pioneering and high profile sustainability initiative Plan A. Plan A is underpinned by the classic three pillars of sustainability. We have also added a fourth pillar – Governance – as strong leadership is critical to success in both corporate sustainability and community energy. All four pillars can be seen to motivate both corporate CSR and community energy schemes.

Pillar Corporate Sustainability Community Energy
Economic Minimising energy bills and waste assists economic sustainability Allows investment into projects, providing a respectable financial return to shareholders
Social Fair and beneficial business practices toward labour, the community and region Shares excess income through community benefit fund back to the community
Environmental Reduces CO2 emissions, and lowers energy bills Primary aim of community energy is to reduce CO2 emissions
Governance Demonstrates leadership on sustainability, voluntarily going above and beyond regulation as part of CSR strategy Pro-active project development – a self-sufficient response that does not rely on ‘the government solving the problem’

We believe that this new model developed with M&S is replicable across the corporate landscape, with the wider benefits of customers and colleagues being able to financially benefit from their employers’ positive environmental leadership, deeper integration of businesses into their local communities through the community benefit fund, and a more sustainable business operation due to improvements in their internal energy infrastructure.

The installations

Over the summer of 2016, Joju installed solar PV arrays at eight Marks & Spencer stores: Banbury, Cheshire Oaks, Cheshunt, Hayle, Hempstead, Longbridge, Torbay and Truro. The installations varied in size and the technical information on each is provided below.

Store kWp Number of Panels Area in m2
Banbury 49.92 192 312.36
Cheshire Oaks 49.92 192 312.36
Cheshunt 156 600 976.13
Hayle 223.6 860 1399.12
Hempstead 112.32 432 702.81
Longbridge 49.2 192 312.36
Torbay 99.84 384 624.72
Truro 99.84 384 624.72

What we learnt from the project To run a large and high profile programme such as this against tight feed-in tariff deadlines required all aspects of the project to run as smoothly as possible and in a coordinated fashion. The key factors of importance were:

  • Minimum disruption: The necessity to minimise any disruption to the day-to-day operation of the stores during the build.
  • Standards: Having exemplary standards around health and safety.
  • Timing: To deliver on time, against tight feed-in tariff deadlines; any delay could have critically compromised the economics of the overall programme.
  • Speed: The speed of the builds is important and the integration of component deliveries into the day-to-day build programme can significantly improve the slickness of the build.
  • Preparation: There is more work to prepare the project; structural engineering, system design, grid approval, and especially arranging legal permissions all of which can take time. By comparison the onsite build is rapid.
  • Stakeholders: Given the complexity of the project, it was key to involve all stakeholders from an early stage.
  • Complexities: Dealing with third party landlords creates complexities which affect timing and costs.

 

Date

September 21, 2016

Category

Commercial, Community, Featured, Solar