Co-operative businesses are owned and run by and for their members, whether they are customers, employees or residents. As well as giving members an equal say and share of the profits, co-operatives act together to build a better community. It’s a business model that’s well tried and tested. Over 13 million people in the UK are members of our nearly 6,000 co-operatives. And co-ops have been around for nearly 200 years.
In 1824 a group of 28 weavers and other artisans in Rochdale were facing poverty due to the industrial revolution. The tradesmen decided to group together to open their own store selling food items that they couldn’t afford to buy on their own. The group based their shop ethics on a set a principles they created called the Rochdale Principles and the co-operative business model.
What are co-operative principles?
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Autonomy and independence
- Education, training and information
- Co-operation among co-operatives
- Concern for community
What are co-operative values?
- Self help
- Self responsibility
Why the Basingstoke Energy Services Co-operative?
In early 2011 a group of volunteers that had formed the Basingstoke Transition Network were discussing the challenge of climate change. More specifically they were concerned about the reliance of our local economy on cheap fossil fuels. It was clear that we needed to find a way to make renewable energy more affordable and accessible for the whole population of our borough. The group had diverse professional and social backgrounds and so our dialogue was well balanced and non-political. They focussed some of their efforts on finding practical measures that we should take to engage wider interest in community based measures that would reduce reliance on fossil fuels and rather than just being a “talking shop” some members wanted to take direct and positive action.
Work to form the Basingstoke Energy Services Co-op (Bes Co-op) was initiated in the summer of 2011. The first draft of our Concept and Strategy paper was produced in early September 2011 and we immediately embarked on the process that led to formal incorporation. The Co-op was all set to engage with a ground swell interest in the domestic scale renewable energy market but we had ambition for much larger community owned schemes.
That autumn and the following spring brought many challenges for those involved in the UK renewable energy installation market. There were also other economic pressures as many commercial ventures and domestic communities became gripped with a focus on reduced income and increasing costs. Throughout those difficult times our Cooperative Principles and Values helped us to remain focussed on the practical measures and facts that could demonstrate the benefit of more low carbon and renewable energy in our local economy.
Bes Co-op was incorporated with the Financial Services Authority as an Industrial and Provident Society for the benefit of its customers on 11th January 2012. Our society number is 31580R. Our first project was to bid for an opportunity to install the first community owned solar power station in Basingstoke. We were delighted that Brookvale Community Association selected our proposal as the best value offer and invited us to complete the installation. This landmark system was commission on 2nd March 2012 and will continue to earn significant revenue for Brookvale Community Association until end of February 2037.
Our co-operative model is based on a view that renewable and low carbon energy projects should not just be owned by the host organisation. Many charities, associations and enterprises do not have the capital funds available to purchase a renewable energy solution but do have a building with energy demands. Our cooperative has been established to enable those opportunities to be funded by cooperation in the community. These projects might be community owned and operated energy schemes that generate heat, power or both from renewable sources. They may involve improvements to insulation or air tightness to reduce the cost of heating. The key connection is that they are reducing demand for fossil fuels, reducing costs for those in need in our community, developing local skills for a low carbon economy and providing a fair return to local people for the time and money that they invest.
Bes Co-op can achieve many of our goals but it must operate within strict rules and these are based on a retail model. In order to create a community fund that could combine investments from many local individuals and local organisations we needed to create a new mutually owned fund society. Basingstoke Community Energy Fund Society (CEFSoc) was incorporated as an Industrial and Provident Society for the benefit of or community on 5th April 2012. Our society number is 31580R.
Basingstoke CEFSoc was formed to serve our local community. We have defined that community as all who live, work or trade within a 20 mile radius of Basingstoke town centre. The fund has been established to facilitate the financing of schemes within the Borough of Basingstoke & Deane that will plan, implement or operate:
- Community renewable energy schemes
- Programmes to inform and educate members and others in the community about practical methods to increase efficiency of energy use.
- Projects to distribute and install measures that will sustainably reduce the number of households experiencing fuel poverty.
- The combined operations of Bes Co-op and Basingstoke CEFSoc will enable our local community to become more informed and responsible in the way that we use fossil fuels. These two social enterprises will deliver an opportunity to the local community that we hope will inspire other boroughs to emulate. We seek to make Basingstoke and Deane Borough a place that will inspire others to adopt the Cooperative approach to energy services.
Find out more by visiting our solar calculator page. This will give you a guide to how much a solar system from us might cost. Our prices include VAT, design, installation, scaffolding, surveys and Energy Performance Certificates. There are no hidden extras. Click here for the Solar Calculator.