15

Apr

2020

Churches investing in the clean energy future: case studies

 

The power of divestment from fossil fuels is two-fold: both in making a statement that it is unethical to profit from climate breakdown and in putting an end to financing fossil fuel companies.

Yet as well as removing finance from the companies causing the climate crisis, it is vital to encourage investment in clean technologies to support renewable energy production and kickstart the transition to a sustainable economy.

Churches across the UK are involved in creative ways of investing in and supporting the production of renewable energy – for example through investment in community energy projects and renewable energy companies.

We are keen to demonstrate how churches across the UK are investing in the clean energy transition, and showcase some of the options for investment of church funds in renewable energy and clean technologies as well as divesting from fossil fuel companies.

The recent decision by the Church of England General Synod to set a 2030 target for reaching net zero carbon emissions has led to discussion about where best to start to achieve this aim. We hope that the stories below will provide inspiration to churches of all denominations about some steps they can take to cut their carbon emissions.

Salisbury Cathedral

In December 2019, Salisbury Cathedral invested £25,000 into Salisbury Community Energy (SCE). In providing this investment into SCE, the Cathedral is part of enabling the installation of solar panels in seven sites, one of which will be the Cathedral cloisters. The investment from the Dean and Chapter, Salisbury Cathedral’s governing body, comprises part of a major solar share offer that is run on a national basis by SCE’s partner Schools’ Energy Co-op.

The project is raising funds to build these seven solar energy sites through local people and groups investing through their purchase of community shares – with nearly £213,000 of funds invested in the projects. Community energy projects like SCE localise the production of renewable, clean energy, and are proving to be successful and popular methods of reducing reliance on fossil fuels from the grassroots.

Gloucester Cathedral

In 2016, Gloucester Cathedral installed 150 solar panels on the south nave roof. These panels provide them with more than 25% of their annual electricity and save the Cathedral around £4,000 in bills annually. Since their installation, the solar panels have saved over 25,300 kg of CO2 emissions that otherwise would have been released.

Dean of Gloucester blessing the solar panels. Photo credit: Anna Lythgoe

The installation was part of a much larger scheme (Project Pilgrim), a once in a generation opportunity to improve and restore particular areas of the Cathedral, helping them to ‘fulfil their role as a place of spiritual, civic and heritage activity at the centre of Gloucester.’ They see the solar panels as part of their role as custodians of both the Cathedral building and of God’s creation, having a responsibility to future generations.

Power for Good Co-operative

Power for Good is a co-operative community energy project based in the Midlands, set up by a group of Christians with the ultimate aim of being a multi-faith project. Currently, three churches have had solar panels installed on their roofs by Power for Good, as a result of the investment of those churches and others (individuals/groups) buying community shares. The solar panels now provide for each church’s electricity needs.

St Andrew’s West Bromwich, is a joint Anglican-Methodist church that invested £1,000 in the first share offer from Power for Good. St Andrew’s was the first church to have the solar panels installed. Shortly after the St Andrews installation, St Richard’s Lea Hall invested in solar panels that were installed on their roof. New Life Baptist Church in Kings Heath invested £250 in Power for Good’s second share offer, which raised the capital needed to install solar panels on their roof.

Power Up North London – St Anne’s Church, Highgate

The community energy cooperative Power Up North London partnered with St Anne’s Church in Highgate to install solar panels on the church roof. Power Up North London raised funds for the project through a community share offer.

Those who invested in the installation (St Anne’s Church, parishioners and local community members) benefit from a small return on their investment and discounted energy. Any surplus income is reinvested into the Power Up North London Community Energy Fund, which will be available for further projects locally.

What could your church do to positively invest?

Depending on the funds available, there is a range of positive investment options available both locally and on a large scale. These include the following:

  • Investment in specific renewable energy generation projects, either directly or through a social investment platform which lists schemes seeking investors
  • Purchasing shares in community renewable energy schemes
  • Fixed-term deposits with an ethical bank
  • Investment in large-scale fossil-free investment funds

Some useful resources:

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