Example solar farm with wild flowers

B&NES Council dismisses Call In on BWCE £500K loan

This morning (29/9/2014) the council’s Scrutiny Panel looked at a motion to delay or withdraw B&NES’s offer of a £500K loan for its 2.34MW Wilmington Solar Farm near Markbury.

The £500K loan had been agreed by council cabinet members Paul Crossley and David Bellotti from its £1M Green Investment Fund.

A large number of written submissions were received from members of the public and Transition Bath regulars in favour of the loan. In addition a number of local residents spoke at the meeting supporting the loan including Peter Capener, Chair of BWCE. There was only one public speaker against the loan who was not a resident and had travelled all the way from Bridgewater for the meeting.

Ultimately the Conservative majority Scrutiny Panel were persuaded by the strength of the arguments of both the written statements and those from the speakers and they agreed to dismiss the Call-In in favour of a written report to the next cabinet meeting. This means that B&NES’s loan can now go ahead subject to final contractual negotiations.

The arguments in favour were as follows:

  1. The loan was secured against a low risk asset, backed by government
  2. The 6.5% return on the loan is at the top end of the market and could be described as ‘generous’
  3. BWCE has a strong nationally renowned management team, with a good track record of delivery (albeit short as this is a new industry), and is currently ‘UK Community Energy Organisation of the Year’
  4. There are no obvious alternative uses for the £1M fund at the moment, and in particular those which:
    1. Reduce so much carbon
    2. Contribute £700K back into the community via a Charitable Trust over the life of the loan
  5. The Price-Coopers-Waterhouse due diligence report for B&NES gave a positive rating for BWCE
  6. The necessity to move quickly to lock-in the feed in tariff by the end of December

The main arguments against were:

  1. Were any alternatives investigated?
  2. Did BWCE have any alternatives sources for the loan?
  3. Does the investment provide suitable rate of return for the risk being taken

The reason for the Call-In appeared to be a lack of background information. This lack of information seems to have been adequately sated during the course of the meeting and particularly after Peter Capener’s speech, ultimately leading to the dismissal of the call-in.

Transition Bath would like to thank all our volunteers who wrote in in support of the loan, all BWCE needs to do now is to deliver the £1.6M of shareholder investment and build the farm by the end of December! BWCE are still looking for investors so if you have money available, want a good return, to invest in reducing carbon and provide a return to the community further information is available here on BWCE’s website.

An interesting snippet of information announced by a Conservative Councillor at the meeting is that Jacob Rees Mogg MP for North East Somerset is no longer in favour of fracking in his constituency, although nothing to this effect has yet been formally published.

A Bath Chronicle article on the meeting and decision appears here.

Posted in Bath and West Community Energy, Energy, Planning.