There was a great turn out for the Gloucestershire Community Energy Co-operative in February. Around two thirds of the members were able to attend, which was important because we needed to vote on motions relating to the structure of the society. All the motions were passed.
The meeting then moved into an update of how the solar panels are working (answer – well) and and a short look at ideas for where future projects might come from.
After the hour long meeting members were invited to attend the Energy For All meeting, organised by Friends of the Earth at which our own Kevin Frea was speaking alongside Martin Horwood MP.
If members have any ideas about future projects please do contact the committee. We hope to keep investigating ideas and hopefully find a new renewable energy project to put before members for our possible support.
For those that would like more information about the meeting, the structural issues that we covered were:
We agreed to change our name to Gloucestershire Community Energy Limited. This is needed because we are changing from a Co-operative to a ‘Society for the benefit of the Community’. Although still created under Industrial & Provident Society rules, and still a member of Co-operatives UK as a community co-op, it differs from other co-ops in that its benefits serve the community as a whole rather than a membership. Within the co-operative movement some refer to it as a ‘co-op for the greater good‘
Social enterprises have traditionally favoured this model as a suitable legal structure which is attractive to ethical investors and which protects the founding principles and ethos of the business. Most of the similar community energy ‘co-ops’ have this structure.
All this means that, slightly counter-intuitively, we have to drop the word ‘Co-operative’ from our formal title, but can still use it as a trading name.
Adoption of New Rules
The Co-op was formed from the original Five Valleys Energy Co-op (FiVE) based in Stroud in mid 2011. FiVE had in turn been set up by a small group of committed people who wanted to provide locally based, green energy organisation making use of the government feed-in tariffs. When Kevin Frea and a couple of people from Transition Cheltenham were looking for a way to get a Gloucestershire-wide Co-op underway, FiVE was a ready-made organisation.
The old FiVE rules were based on those of a ‘multi-stakeholder’ Co-op know as the Somerset Rules. These rules have complex arrangements to allow different stakeholders to have their own pre-defined representation in the running of the Co-op. As we are basically a member group, with currently no employees, these rules proved unnecessary and unwieldy. From looking at best practice of other community energy groups the committee recommended that the group adopt the Community Finance Model set of rules. These have a simpler single category of membership model, while still retaining the one person-one vote principle.
The group agreed that as an extra safeguard for the future, we should incorporate an asset lock into our rules.