Marks & Spencer, the retail giant, is using a crowdfunding model to support installation of new solar PV panels across its retail estate. It is partnering with a non-profit organisation, Energy4All, which works to assist communities in setting up their own energy co-operatives. M&S hopes to crowdfund £1.23 million in order to install solar PV panels across nine of its largest stores, including Torbay, Truro and Cheshunt.
To achieve this, it has created the new M&S Energy Society, which will seek investments of £100 to £100,000 to own and install the panels for twenty years. The retailer will purchase the resulting energy, and investors are being offered a target return of 5pc annually.
Project Manager Lydia Hopton said that the project represented a fantastic chance for private investors and M&S customers to help the environment whilst earning a healthy return and helping local community initiatives. The retailer will be the first in the UK to launch a scheme such as this.
Profits will be distributed out to local green energy projects via a benefit fund. These could include measures to help local people to lower their fuel consumption or schemes to improves community building insulation. The scheme's members will make the casting votes for the schemes which will benefit.
The project marks the first corporate-level initiative of its kind for Energy4All, which has previously backed around twenty predominantly wind-based energy co-operatives across the UK. With the cut in government incentives, the future of further corporate tie-ins with a similar model is looking uncertain.
M&S hopes to source half of its energy needs from micro renewables by 2020. Already it is has installed the biggest single solar rooftop array in the UK for a retailer at its Castle Donington distribution centre.