A NEW community energy initiative to help local businesses become greener while also helping to tackle fuel poverty is inviting investors to join its co-operative.

The Calleva Community Energy Co-op has been set up to raise £412,000 to install solar PV on the roofs of three office and light industrial buildings at Calleva Business Park, on the outskirts of Tadley, in Aldermaston.

The project was initiated by the directors of two businesses operating on the park, Mike Larocque and Richard Howard, who became frustrated with the unnecessary energy wastage from their office space and decided to take action.

Calleva Community Energy director Mike Larocque, said: “We realised that thanks to the government Feed-in Tariff, we could generate enough revenue from installing solar PV on the roofs of the buildings to implement energy efficiency measures such as loft insulation – and there would be enough money left over to help alleviate fuel poverty across our community, which stretches from Basingstoke, Newbury and Reading.”

Shares in the community co-operative are being offered through Ethex, a not-for-profit website designed to make it easier for people to invest directly in social impact businesses.

The average forecast annual return is seven per cent over a 15-year period.

Ethex director Lisa Ashford, said: “It’s a truly innovative scheme which can drive both renewable energy and energy efficiency into the business park whilst benefiting local people and generating a seven per cent return for members of the Co-op. That’s a win-win scenario.”

The Co-op has already raised 80 per cent of funds needed, meaning the solar installation will definitely go ahead on two of the three buildings. Investors have until July 17 to apply for shares and the minimum investment is £250.

Jane Grindey, who is also a director, Calleva Community Energy, said: “Over 1,500 people are employed in some 200 small and medium-sized businesses at Calleva, with most of them living nearby, and they all deserve to be able to work in a greener, less wasteful space. “Business parks are important economic engines for local communities – they create jobs, generate wealth and often deliver services to other local firms, so helping to generate further local economic growth – and our project will help Calleva’s tenants to become more sustainable both economically and environmentally.

“The impact of the project will be felt well beyond the business park, as people who work here will become more engaged with their energy usage and use that knowledge to help reduce energy consumption and bills at home.”

A total of 300 kW solar PV will be installed. As well as reducing businesses’ energy bills by about a quarter, both through the energy generated and the implementation of energy efficiency measures, the scheme will save around 150 tonnes of carbon a year.

Over 20 years, CCE aims to invest more than £130,000 in alleviating fuel poverty locally.

Anna Croucher, who is managing director of Lola Print, based at the business park, said: “With increasing energy prices, as a tenant, it is frustrating that there is little more we can do to improve the efficiency of our unit.

“CCE is a promising initiative that could make a substantial saving to Lola Print’s energy costs whilst reducing our carbon emissions.”