Urban Community Energy Fund (UCEF)
Development funding for large community projects
Project duration: December 2014 ongoing
Launched in November 2014, the Urban Community Energy Fund (UCEF) was a government-funded programme that was co-administered by CSE and Pure Leapfrog, and closed to new applications on the 5 July 2016.
UCEF supported community energy projects through their development phase, to determine viability, and to get them ‘investment ready’ – i.e. with a sound proposition for a bank or other financer to take the project through to the construction phase.
This development work was supported by the fund with a grant of up to £20,000 that community organisations could apply to. The original intention was also for a £130k contingent loan to be made available to groups for more in-depth development work but this aspect of the programme was never launched.
Over the 20 months that UCEF was open a total of 123 community organisations applied for funding and 75 grants were awarded. Successful groups investigated a wide range of technologies and aside from the expected rooftop solar projects, applications were received for large scale solar farms, hydro plants and ambitious heat networks. Click here to read about some of the successful applications.
James Watt, who managed the application process for CSE said, “UCEF proved hugely successful and was clearly a valuable source of funding to help de-risk the development of community energy projects at the critical early stages. So far close to 7MW of community energy has been installed as a result of awarding £1.2m of UCEF grants and there are still a number of projects in the development pipeline that could bring this total even higher.”
The Low Carbon Hub, based in Oxford, has been developing a hydroelectric plant on Sandford Lock that will have a capacity of 440kW. They applied to UCEF in order to get help covering some of the legal costs which included not just their own costs, but those of the Environment Agency as well. The project is currently being built and is due to be fully commissioned in the summer of 2017. Barbara Hammond, CEO of Low Carbon Hub said, “The funding has been critical and we very much wish it was still there to call upon for new projects!”
A brand new community energy group, Grimsby Community Energy, applied to UCEF for a grant back in March 2015 and they used the funding they received to help cover a wide range of development costs. It not only paid for them to legally register their organisation, but it covered technical feasibility studies, financial modelling, community consultation and other legal costs. Although they initially had very ambitious targets for what they would install, changes in the feed-in tariff required them to scale back their plans and by October 2016 they had managed to install 100kW of rooftop solar PV across multiple sites in Grimsby.
Successful UCEF applications
Below is a map showing the successful UCEF applications. Click on a pin to find out more about that group.