luke pollard plymouth solar
Luke Pollard: local co-op switching service develops into renewable electricity generator

There’s a energy revolution taking place in Plymouth. A new way of generating power and keeping the profits in the city is taking shape.

The city’s very own energy co-operative, Plymouth Energy Community and its spin-off co-op Plymouth Energy Community Renewables, is currently issuing shares in a new venture to place solar panels on the roofs of the city’s primary schools and community buildings generating clean, green and affordable energy for those schools.

This will help cut their energy bills and allow them to spend more of their cash on teaching rather not lining the coffers of fat cat energy companies.

The energy co-operative really is one of the most exciting achievements of the past two years of Labour control. On day one, Plymouth’s ruling Labour group decided that they would transform the Council’s services using more co-operative methods. Facing massive cuts simply doing the same as we had done before wasn’t going to be an option.

Dealing with the always-increasing energy bills is one way the City Council set out to help and thus Plymouth Energy Community, the city’s very own energy switching and generating co-operative was born.

Starting off as a switching service, the co-operative has just launched a share issue in a new spin-off venture to generate electricity. It only took two months to achieve the £500,000 share issue total with the majority of the shares being bought by local people and those with a passion in green energy. Starting at £50 the share issue made owning a part of this co-operative within reach for more people than most other share issues. It is also the first public co-operative share issue since the 1800s in Plymouth.

There were some who were sceptical about whether such a share issue would be taken up. Would people in Plymouth part with their cash to invest in an untested and unfamiliar generating business? Would the co-operative model be supported by people in the face on-going and troublesome scandals at the Co-op Group? Well, yes, they would, they did and they have.

As well as having a major impact on the city’s carbon footprint the scheme would fund £900,000 of fuel poverty initiatives in the city too. It’s an incredible scheme from an incredible co-operative.

I’m very proud to have bought my shares in this co-operative. I know that the money I spent on shares will be used to buy solar panels to be put on the roof of our local schools. Every day they are up there, they’ll be generating cheaper energy for the school so they can spend more of their cash on teaching and not electricity. All the profits from the co-operative will be kept in Plymouth, re-invested or returned to the co-operators who helped fund it.

The incredible thing about what Plymouth has done is that it isn’t Devon-specific. We might have some lovely sunny weather in the summer but the beauty of this scheme is that it will generate clean, green and cheap energy for schools all year round, not just in the summer months. That means every local authority in the country could be doing the same thing as we are.

The huge potential of this scheme is just becoming apparent and it is thanks to some fantastic co-operators here in Plymouth, backed by a Labour council that is making this happen.

Like most great innovations and developments in the co-operative movement this didn’t happen by chance. It happened because people came together to solve a problem and pooled their time, energy and resources to do so for mutual benefit in the true co-operative spirit.

Without a Labour Council that said on day one of the administration in 2012 that solutions must be more co-operative than corporate the pioneering Plymouth Energy Community would not have got off the ground. This is another reason why we need more Labour and Co-operative Councillors elected in the May local elections, who can then focus on co-operative solutions to our problems.

To find out more about the energy co-operative and its spin-off generating project visit Plymouth Energy Community’s website.

Luke Pollard is the Labour and Co-operative Parliamentary Candidate for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport. He lives in Plymouth and works in tourism. Visit his website at for more information

Solar Co-op Powers Local Community Assets
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