Guest Post: Taking Ownership of Our Energy Choices
To a large extent living a greener life, or at least, attempting to, comes down to having the courage of one’s convictions when it comes to making lifestyle choices, from what we eat to how we choose to get around.
On occasion, sticking to your guns can mean taking a financial hit. Locally grown organic produce, for instance, saves on pesticides and air miles, but generally comes at a higher price. However, sometimes taking ownership (quite literally) of your choices can be a boost not only to your green credential, but also to your finances.
Renewable energy co-operatives are a brilliant example of this and, encouragingly, they’re becoming more and more popular throughout the UK. The first communally owned wind farm to be set up in Britain, Cumbria’s Baywind Energy co-operative, has been an unmitigated success since it’s formation in 1996. Whilst during that same period of time the Bank of England’s base rate of interest has fallen from a high of 7.5% to the current all time low of 0.5% (source), the average gross return offered to Baywind’s 1,300 shareholders was an impressive 7.7% (assuming that the shareholders qualified for the tax relief offered by the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme (source).)
As a result, even if you were all about profit and couldn’t care less about the impact of fossil fuels on the environment, you’d have to conclude that putting your money into a wind farm makes more sense than using more conventional ‘safe bet’ investments, such as savings accounts, especially as demand for renewables is all but guaranteed to steadily increase. For those concerned with global warming this prospect is even more attractive, representing a great return on an out and out green investment. This is not to be scoffed at, especially considering how many of the ‘green funds’ offered by major financial institutions, some of which offer very similar returns, will in fact put your money towards some highly questionable ends.
Sites such as the Westmill wind farm in Oxfordshire have been following in Baywind’s footprints, and more renewable co-ops are popping up, not just in the form of wind farms, but also through community owned solar power stations in urban locations such as Brixton. As well as the dividends you stand to receive from backing such venture, you can also get yourself a healthy tax break. If you invest more than £500 in an organisation qualifying for the Enterprise Investment Scheme, you can claim tax relief for 30% of their value (source) – another advantage buying into a co-op has other many of the other environmentally geared investments options available.
Just as the green mentality is about taking ownership of our actions, we should also look to take ownership of our investments. Renewable energy co-operatives give us the chance to do just that.
Will Kerr writes on a number of issues relating to the world of finance and investments. You can find more of his work over at http://www.casafinance.co.uk/.