Going green together

Manchester's environmental community co-cop helps save energy and costs

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Manchester has developed Britain’s first co-operative scheme to help communities work together to save energy and costs. Members of the Carbon Co-op, which works with communities across the city, benefit from bulk-buying energy saving products such as lightbulbs and double glazing.

The Co-op also offers financial advice to members and has launched a community share scheme in which people can see a return on their investments and make eco-improvements in their homes.

Bills reduced

There are currently around 400 members of the Carbon Co-op and organisers hope that as numbers grow they will have more buying power to help drive down prices of carbon-saving products for their members, which will in turn cut bills and emissions.

Project manager Jonathan Atkinson said the concept was formed in the district of Hulme, which already has a strong community of people interested in environmental issues, and until recently was represented by a Green Party councillor.

Atkinson said: “We saw that there was an opportunity for the community to take charge of its own energy supply. The idea was to bring people together in streets and communities to bulk purchase things like energy monitors, insulation, solar panels and micro-energy systems. If we work together it’s cheaper and simpler.”

Share scheme

The Carbon Co-op was piloted in Moss Side, where residents took part in a series of events, received energy monitors and advice. The project demonstrated that by working as part of a co-op the community could drive down its own energy bills, with a knock-on benefit for the environment. Several Moss Side residents have now bought double glazed windows and LED lightbulbs through the co-op.

The Carbon Co-op hopes to support renewable energy schemes across Greater Manchester. Communities interested in developing renewables and other energy-saving initiatives can attend its workshops, in association with large-scale financiers, to help advise on the best options.

The co-op’s community share scheme is backed by the government, and allows investors to buy shares in renewables schemes and receive discounted electricity as well as returns on the investment. Money raised by the investment will support energy-saving improvements to shareholders’ homes.

Photo: Co-op members Judith and Andrew Leask at their eco-house in Trafford

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