The following FAQs arose from the webinar for applicants we held in November 2018. For general FAQs, see our guidelines (pdf) here.
Q] Can an existing energy asset be used? For example, could you apply innovation to increase income and local benefits of an asset you currently own?
A] Yes, if you are providing new services from an existing asset or an innovative route to market then this could be eligible. For example if you are adding battery storage to an existing asset to engage with demand side response and flexibility services. The innovation of the business model, the services you are providing and who you are providing these services to are the important factors that we will be looking at in applications.
Q] How does our geographical area and our community need to be defined? If we are a national network of organisations based in different places would that rule us out?
A] If aggregating across a broader area brings benefit to the business model you are looking to develop then we would be interested in hearing your ideas. However, you would need to be clear about which communities you are rooted in, how accountable you are to those communities and how the benefits reach them.
Please refer to Power to Change’s website for further explanation on our community business criteria.
Q] What if the majority of the investing members don’t live in the local community in a one member one vote society?
A] It would depend how rooted in and accountable to the community in the local area the organisation is, and the ways in which the local community can have regular and ongoing influence on the business objectives of your organisation. There are several ways to demonstrate this local accountability including membership and ownership structures, representation of a broad range of local trustees and directors. We would need to see evidence of this local representation in your group.
Q] How will innovation be defined or assessed?
A] The Next Generation Fund aims to fund exciting and inspiring new business models to enable community energy schemes to lead the way in the decarbonised, decentralised, digitalised energy transition. We are looking for applications detailing business models which are not already proven models in other geographical areas. We are looking for new business models that test innovative approaches to enable the community energy sector to develop within a future subsidy-free landscape. However, you should take into consideration that the maximum grant available from us is £100,000 and projects should be delivering outcomes by June 2021.
Q] Are consortium bids eligible? Do all partners in a bid need to be a community business? Can the community benefit element of the project be satisfied via a partnership?
Yes you can apply as a consortium of organisations and we would encourage applications that demonstrate good partnership working, however you must identify the lead applicant and they will be responsible for the contract with us and for delegation of funds across the other consortium partners. The lead applicant would need to be a community business operating in a clearly defined geographic area. You don’t need to involve everyone taking part in the project in the consortium if some of those organisations or people would more accurately fulfil the role of a sub-contractor.
Q] Will projects have to be viable under existing Ofgem guidance?
A] During the Research and Development phase of the scheme, gaining permission from Ofgem to allow trials of new ideas which sit outside their current regulatory framework is something we can investigate. We can do this through liaising with Ofgem’s Innovation Link and exploring its regulatory sandbox solution as needed. There is already a precedent set by some community energy models which have been allowed to operate outside usual Ofgem regulation to trial new ideas, so it shouldn’t be a major road block.
Q] Do we have to pay out of the grant for the expert support services or is that provided anyway?
Support from our specialist consortium is additional to the £100k funding so you do not need to pay for this out of your grant. A separate allowance will also be made to cover up to 6 days staff time, (plus any relevant travel costs) per applicant to engage with the Research and Development phase. If we are required to buy datasets, conduct research on your behalf and produce reports this will all be funded from a separate pot and not your individual grants.
Q] Given this is an innovation grant, who will own the Intellectual Property (IP) rights?
A] We will want to extract as much learning from the projects as possible for wide dissemination to strengthen the community energy sector. However, we would expect any IP to remain with the applicant given the support and grant funding is provided to help applicants develop their own idea or project.
Q] Would the Community Shares Booster programme also be available alongside Next Generation funding?
A] An organisation can apply to both the Next Generation programme and the Community Shares Booster programme if you can meet the eligibility requirements of each programme.