Communities for Renewables (CfR)

Energising Communities

Established to help community energy enterprises, local authorities and social landlords develop, finance and manage their own renewable energy generation, Communities for Renewables (CfR) has helped more than 30 projects across the South of England deliver over 35MW of community solar power. From school roofs to one of the largest community solar farms in the UK, CfR has been energising communities across the region.

Started in a broom cupboard in 2012, CfR was the brainchild of Managing Director, Jake Burnyeat, who was frustrated by the fact that energy generation was rapidly becoming decentralised, but ownership and economic benefit was not.

In his view, the lack of local community benefit was a key factor in local opposition to renewables and a missed opportunity that would make energy generation an engine for local low carbon economic development.

With little but passion, ideas and savings to last six months, Jake quit his job in commercial renewable energy consultancy and set out to create an organisation which would help villages, towns and cities set up their community energy enterprises.

Jake quickly found that others in the sector shared his vision, gaining support from Exeter based renewable energy experts, Regen, and a non-executive board including industry founder and Exeter-stalwart, Jonathan Johns.

Set up with £450,000 of risk investment raised from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and a Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) share offer, CfR began to trade as a Community Interest Company (CIC).

Right from the start, CfR has worked with Simpkins Edwards as their auditors. The firm has particular expertise in dealing with organisations operating in The Third Sector. The firm’s Senior Statutory Auditors, Jon Williams and John Coombs are supported by a team including senior audit manager Ken Brimacombe and Paul Burgess, who both work directly with CfR.

From the early days, CfR has played a key role in local community power generation across the South of England.  “Our work involves organisational set up and business planning; renewable energy project development; raising finance from crowd sourced investors, commercial project finance lenders and social investment funds; and, providing ongoing company and asset management services,” says Jake.

“The local energy enterprises we help set up and manage are all governed by local volunteer directors and run on a not-for-profit basis to generate energy and income to support community projects in their localities.”

Six years after its birth, CfR has grown to a small but passionate team of four full-time staff, based in Cornwall. Together, they have raised over £40 million in capital and helped install community solar in ten localities. These community solar initiatives are projected to generate over £14 million in surplus community income to support projects, including tackling fuel poverty.

Earlier this year the business was shortlisted as a 2018 British Renewable Energy Association Awards finalist.

Ever focussed on their customers, Jake says: “We tend to keep out of the limelight and let our clients make the noise, but it’s good to be recognised.”

He adds, “There’s a huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to get a local energy enterprise off the ground and keep it running. From volunteer directors, lawyers and accountants, to technical advisors and installation contractors, there are many individuals deserving of recognition. In our view, they are all worthy of awards. To us, it’s more than a job.”

Commenting on the support provided by Simpkins Edwards, Jake says: “We’ve worked together since our seed enterprise investment scheme (SEIS) share offer back in 2012. At that point we were very much a start-up. We needed a firm with a reputation that could give our investors confidence and grow with us.  Simpkins Edwards provided just that.  They’ve been great.  As well as the run of the mill audit work, Simpkins Edwards have helped us through some quite technical accounting matters, which has required a detailed understanding of the business.”

While CfR is not in itself required to have a statutory audit, they see it as a valuable endorsement as a CIC, and essential to the success of the business, which has been profitable for two years, paying a dividend to its seed investors, and repaying its seed loan from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

As Jake says: “Whilst it takes time and effort to get through it, it’s a good opportunity to review everything in detail. We have low transaction numbers for our turnover so we still have a highly substantive sample based audit. Simpkins Edwards really do see it all! They are a huge help to us, a real pleasure to work with, and I would have no hesitation recommending them to other organisations requiring an audit, whether as a legal requirement or as an assurance of business controls and procedures.”

http://www.cfrcic.co.uk/ • Tel: 01326 567 161 • Email: hello@cfrcic.co.uk