Annual General Meeting
26th March, 2014
M I N U T E S
Present: 42 members (see Attendance List)
Apologies: were received from Maureen Whitebrook, Pru Philip, John Chapman, Gary Hunt, Claire Gregory, Steve Hughes, Chris Wade, Fran Belbin, Luke Wilson, Michael Miller, Dave Woodall, Paul Nichols, Sue Morton, Graham Woods, Saleema Imam, Kate Reece.
David Berry chaired the meeting and introduced the directors and Emma Bridge, the General Manager. He thanked Heeley City Farm and South Yorkshire Energy Centre, where we have our office, for their support. He also thanked Homeco Energy who have installed our first solar PV scheme at Paces, and Councillor Jack Scott who has been steadfast in his support for us.
Minutes of the AGM 2013
These were agreed. There were no matters arising.
Minutes of the SGM 2013
These were agreed. There were no matters arising.
Richard Collins took us through his report that is available as a separate document. He first reminded us about what had happened over Jordan’s Dam and where we were in March 2013 at the time of the SGM.
He then moved on to talk about how we had found our first site for solar PV at Paces Campus, the subsequent change to our share offer and the award of a grant and loan from Key Fund to support this project. He mentioned the process we had to go through to make this project happen: lease negotiations, electricity price agreement, planning permission, etc. The panels were installed on the roof in late February/early March and should start generating in mid-April.
During this time we have had to manage risk, and because of this we have moved slowly and it has taken a long time.
As the Paces scheme will not use all of our investment capital, we looked for other partners. We developed a scheme with South Yorkshire Housing Association. We investigated over 100 of their properties and put together a business plan for ten of these. However, when we put the proposal to SYHA, they felt it was strong enough for them to take it on themselves with their own capital. This is not all bad news. We have shown that is it possible to put renewable energy on to social housing and we hope this can be rolled out. We have been a catalyst, SYHA will pay us for our work, we have created more carbon savings and we still have capital to put towards more renewable energy.
We have looked at a lot more buildings and lots of lessons have been learned. We hope to have another scheme ready by the end of the summer.
As well as this Sheffield Renewables has been busy with income generation projects. Emma and Julia have been involved with the council’s Renewable Energy Investment Plan. We were approached by three large energy consultancy firms to work with them to produce this report for the council. We partnered with Arup. Julia and the hydro and solar teams put together case studies for the report. We have shown that volunteer experience has been used to widen investment in the region.
We have also been paid by Dearne Valley Eco Vision, an organisation set up by Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham councils to improve the Dearne Valley. They want to set up an organisation similar to Sheffield Renewables in the Dearne Valley. We submitted recommendations to them. We then applied for a grant from the Cabinet Office as part of a Peer to Peer Mentoring Programme to share our experience. We were successful in obtaining this grant and we will be doing further work with Dearne Valley Eco Vision organising events, etc.
Over the past year we have also given advice to many other small organisations throughout the country.
We were asked about the Arup report. This is not a public document at the moment. It will be launched at the Green Commission later in the year.
There was a question about the Key Fund loan. Although the capital money was not needed, it was given as part of the development money for the Paces scheme.
In answer to a question about the Paces Business Case it was stated that this is on our website.
We were asked about sites. Why outside Sheffield and why so many. The work we have looked at outside Sheffield has been consultancy only. We have looked at so many sites as a scheme depends not only on the viability of the site (orientation, shading, etc) but also on who owns the building, is there a lease, how much is the site used in the day time, who uses the building, do they share our ethos?
The meeting AGREED that we could put schemes in the Sheffield City Region, not only in Sheffield itself. It was OK to have ‘fuzzy edges’ if a good scheme happened to be just outside this boundary. However, there was a strong preference for a central Sheffield location.
A member mentioned Dearne Valley Groundwork Green Energy Doctors. Unfortunately they no longer exist, but we will ensure we involve similar people in the area. There may be volunteers in Elsecar.
We were asked why we were not using city council buildings. We would like to and we have tried to work with the council, who are supportive. However, there are issues with procurement.
We have discovered over the past year that the technology of the sites is the easy part. Working on the relationship with the owners and users is the hard part.
Emma Bridge, our General Manager then spoke about plans for the future. She echoed Richard’s words and said she is feeling excited about our next steps. She mentioned the new government Community Energy Strategy, which has opportunities for us.
We have enough capital for one or two more schemes. We have a couple of options in Sheffield itself or a school in the Dearne Valley. We would like the next scheme to be up and running by the summer. There are 45 Eco Schools in Dearne Valley, and working with any of them would mean much wider opportunities than just putting panels on roofs – we would be involved in lesson plans and education.
We are also planning to look at the Renewable Heat Incentive and looking at future horizons. We need to see what opportunities are out there. Any members who have any thoughts, please let us know.
There has been extra unplanned work this year to keep us going as an organisation. In future we need to plan better on a long term basis. We hope to find further consultancy and opportunities for volunteers. Development of our volunteers is really important.
As we have been so focussed on the work that needed to be done over the past year, we have not developed volunteer roles. We receive requests all the time from volunteers wanting to work with us. Emma will be putting volunteer role descriptions on the website soon.
We have been developing the board during the last year including roles on the board. This will be developed further over the next 12 months.
It would be wonderful if we could find another inspiring project – as Jordan’s Dam was. Is there something else a little bit different we could look at?
We will continue to promote renewable energy and support the council’s Green Commission.
Emma then thanked everyone for all the support she has received and asked members to please feed in thoughts about what we should be doing next.
Is there anything in the Energy Act that affects renewable energy? It was thought that there is not anything new that will affect us.
Jon Clennell recommended obtaining data from solar PV from the Solar Farm. Emma said she has been in touch with them.
Jean reported that at the time of last year’s AGM we had 251 members. At the SGM we announced the move to Solar PV. Then in June we sent out the new Share Offer document for solar PV. After the move to Solar PV 24 members withdrew their investment (one to turn investment into a donation) leaving 227 members. Of these we are waiting to hear from 19 investors about the move to Solar PV (in spite of contacting them more than once).
Share certificates – are now being issued to all members. This will take a while. They are being issued by email to all those who have an email address and on paper to those who do not. We can provide a paper copy instead of email if necessary.
Jean reminded the meeting about our Volunteer Member scheme. Volunteers who give a lot of time to Sheffield Renewables are invited to become members on payment of £1, instead of the usual minimum investment of £250. This year, Jonathan Lodge, who has been helping Emma in the office and working on the Dearne Valley Eco project, had been invited to become a member. He was presented with his Share Certificate.
It was suggested we should allow people to become members if they donate money rather than time. We agreed to look into this.
Seed Enterprise Investment
David informed the meeting that our solar PV scheme will be eligible for SEI tax rebate. This is not available until we have spent 70% of the capital invested, and we have been producing electricity for four months. We will be writing to members at that point. Meanwhile there is more information on the HMRC website: See Enterprise Investment scheme. It was suggested we should encourage members to re-invest the money that they save via this scheme.
Do we want more members? Generally we would welcome more members. This would mean more people are interested in renewable energy. We would however have to issue a new prospectus. At some point there will be a time when we go out to raise more money. Our vision is to build a community of Sheffield people.
All members had received a copy of the accounts. Jean reported on the income and expenditure for the year.
According to our rule 60(c) members were asked to allow us to apply our audit exemption. This was AGREED.
Changes during the year
Richard Collins reported on changes to volunteers and the board during the year.
Richard Mizzi, who gave a great deal of time to Jordan Dam, has now moved on to work for Arup. Oliver Copeley-Williams, a volunteer with the model making group who also helped at events, has gone travelling for a year.
Richard also gave thanks to Paul Cocker, Jack London and Jonathan Lodge who have done a lot of work looking at buildings for the Dearne Valley Eco project. He thanked all volunteers and members for all their help throughout the year.
Mark Wells, our Treasurer, who has been involved with the organisation since it started in 2007, has decided to stand down to pursue other interests. We are very sad that he is moving on. He has given an enormous amount to Sheffield Renewables.
This left us with only four directors and made us think about our structure. We have spent some time and effort looking at our long term strategy but also operating better as a board, setting up board roles and encouraging long term volunteers to step up to become directors. Mark took the lead in the work and we will continue to develop it.
David thanked Steve and Christine as non-executive directors, their experience of co-operatives and other organisations has been particularly useful.
Election of Board
Richard Collins and Steve Barnard stood down (as per our rules), have been nominated for re-election and are happy to stand again. They were re-elected.
Jean Tinsley and Christine Gilligan are continuing from last year.
We were fortunate to have a talent pool of board advisers who have been nominated for election:
Karthik Suresh has worked with us since late 2010, giving a lot of advice about the sale of electricity for Jordan Dam. He is a management consultant buying and sourcing energy.
Keith Alford is a retired chartered civil engineer. He gave a lot of help to the Jordan Dam project, particularly with procurement.
Julia Carrell has been with us for nearly two years. She started by helping with the share offer and the financial model and is now involved with our solar PV schemes. She is a PhD student.
Tom Harrison has been a volunteer and board adviser for about two years. He has just finished a degree in renewable energy and has now started work for Good Energy. He wants to help to secure our future.
Abigail Hathway has been a volunteer since 2008 mainly working with the hydro team. She is now interested in stepping up to the board. She is a lecturer at the university in energy efficiency.
Luke Wilson studied Environmental Sciences. He is now a Project Officer with the council in Parks & Countryside. He has been volunteering with us for over three years helping with funding applications, blogs and project development.
The new directors were elected en bloc.
Richard then thanked Mark Wells again for his contribution to Sheffield Renewables. He has been a driving force behind the organisation, especially contributing to writing the Share Offer documents.
Mark spoke about his six and a half years with us. He said he has had a great time, it has been an adventure with lots of ups and downs. He remembered his first meeting in December 2007 in someone’s kitchen and last week he was standing on the roof at Paces surrounded by nearly 200 solar panels. He has now decided he needs a rest to contemplate his next move. It has been a privilege to have worked with so many people who share the same passion and he is proud of what we have done and how we have done it. It has brought a lot of people together and it has been a wonderful way to make things happen. He expressed his thanks to everyone but especially to Richard who has been the driving force.
Richard then took this opportunity to thank those without whom this project would not have happened. Some have given a small amount of time and some a great deal. Jean, without whom we would be completely rudderless. Dave who has been instrumental in working with Paces, our installer and the council and has really driven this scheme forward. Emma who we pay to work part-time but we get twice as much. She manages the projects and manages us. She has done an enormous amount of work with the council and South Yorkshire Housing. Work on the two projects has taken a great deal of time and effort and we definitely could not have done them without everyone.
It has been an up and down year, but we have received good support from members during this time.
We then invited members to give news of any projects that might be of interest.
Jenny Patient spoke about her new Green Homes Sheffield project.
Jean read out news from Graham Woods about a hydro project on Storrs Brook.
Rick Watson recommended the Centre for Stustainable Energy in Bristol.
Chris Broome gave news of the council’s Green Commission’s first public event in early April.