RESIDENTS could soon have the chance to become stakeholders in the town’s renewable energy projects as a way of earning an extra income.
Later this week, a ground-breaking motion is set to go before council which could, if passed, pave the way for the creation of a Swindon Energy Social Enterprise Company, one of the first of its type in the country.
It would be run as a co-operative, similar to John Lewis, which would allow people to invest money in renewable energy projects such as the proposed M4 solar barrier.
It would also encourage residents to take part in Collective Switch Schemes, the most recent of which in Swindon saw some households save up to £300 a year.
According to council leaders, renewable energy projects have a strong rate of return for investors and the social enterprise company, making them ideal for those wanting an additional income.
Coun Dale Heenan (Con, Covingham and Dorcan) said: “Renewable energy schemes like solar farms cost millions of pounds to build, but can generate returns of between six and 10 per cent for the pension companies and private investors who provide the funding.
“To achieve our ambition of 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020, we must create the environment where business is willing to invest in Swindon. But I believe that we must also create opportunities for local residents to benefit by investing their own money.
“We have the big six energy companies, but I’d like us to have the big 60 – 60,000 people taking part in Swindon's Community Energy projects.
“If someone has £250 or £10,000 to invest, great, but through the Social Enterprise, I am advocating new ideas to really remove the barriers and make investing accessible to everybody. “For example a ‘renewables kickstarter’ could allow people with £20 to be involved.”
Last month, the Chancellor George Osbourne changed the rules over pensions, meaning it will be easier for retired people to access their money.
The social enterprise company would be the perfect opportunity for people to invest money for a dependable income, especially with progress being made on schemes in the town, according to Coun Heenan.
He said: “The pension reforms announced by the Government also mean we have a golden opportunity to provide an alternative reliable long term income for people who do not wish to buy an annuity.
“Work on the A419 solar sound barrier is going well and it looks like it can be completed on a not for profit basis, but the M4 is perfect for a commercial investment. I would like to see these fast tracked over the summer and be our first community owned energy projects."
The motion, which also recommends the establishment of a cross-party group to look at future renewable energy projects, is set to be put forward at Thursday’s council meeting.
If successful, a report will be put together looking at the viability of the scheme.