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Woolhope Woodheat: UK’s First Wood Fuel Co-operative Launches Share Offer

Community investment schemes for returns – and a clear conscience

Community schemes offer savers 6%-8% returns a year. Plus a clear conscience. The latest promises to deliver green heat while rescuing local woodland
Herefordshire co-operative rescues local woodland to provide green energy

Green deal: Herefordshire co-operative rescues local woodlands to provide green energy. Photograph: Guardian
The country’s first “wood fuel co-operative” is offering green-minded small investors the chance to watch their money go up in smoke and still earn a decent return.
Woolhope Woodheat is a “groundbreaking” project that aims to bring green heat to Herefordshire by installing woodchip boilers in larger buildings that are expensive to run, and sourcing the fuel from local, sustainable woodlands. It is inviting members of the public to join the co-op by investing a minimum of £250, and says the projected return on your investment averages out at 6.1% or more, provided you are happy to sign up for the long term.
If that doesn’t appeal, how about helping to finance a scheme to re-establish an iconic Yorkshire building as a major music venue, or supporting ventures that aim to install solar panels on buildings in Brighton and Bristol?
These are among a number of community initiatives open to small investors who sympathise with the cause, but are also looking for a return on their money. Others include a pub in York and a shop on Shetland.
Community owned and run local businesses are becoming increasingly common. In villages, towns and cities across the UK, people are being invited to become members of “community co-operatives” that typically aim to generate renewable energy or bring vital amenities back to life. Often there is an opportunity for people to invest in these schemes by buying shares or “loan stock” (which means you lend the co-op money for a set period).
Guardian Money has featured a number of these initiatives over the last year or so, such as the Butchers Arms pub in Crosby Ravensworth, Cumbria, which reopened in August 2011; Clevedon Community Bookshop in Clevedon, North Somerset, which opened for business in December 2011; and The Drive housing co-operative in Walthamstow, north-east London, which we featured in July 2011.
Woolhope Woodheat – or Woolhope Dome Community Woodfuel Co-operative Limited, to give it its full name – which is based in Hereford, claims to be unique in the way it ties together green energy with rescuing woodland from neglect. It says many large buildings in south Herefordshire are heated with oil or LPG, which is a “costly and unsustainable situation”.
It plans to install low-emission woodchip boilers in properties that are currently heated with fossil fuels. These boilers will be owned and operated by the co-op, and the customers pay for the heat used. At the same time, the co-op will build up its own woodchip supply.
Woolhope Woodheat plans to install its first boiler at Canon Frome Court, a community of about 50 people living in a Georgian manor and 40-acre organic farm in Herefordshire.
According to the share offer document, the co-op will generate money from the sale of heat, and also receive income from the government’sRenewable Heat Incentive scheme, which will enable it to pay interest to members and return their original investment at the end of the investment period. The co-op wants to raise £324,000 to get the project under way, and people can buy a minimum of 250 shares at £1 each.
With this scheme, you need to be in for the long term, as the investment period is likely to be 20 years, and the highest returns look set to be delivered in the final 10. The predicted return over the full period is 6.1%, though the co-op says the effective return for those investing £500-plus who claim Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) tax relief, could be 8.7%.
The offer is due to end on 13 July.
(The Community Power Report’s note: Go to the original source of the article – linked below, for more community-based investment opportunities across the UK)

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