Fund manager - Social and Sustainable Capital
Social impact investment helped turn what was initially a commercial opportunity into one that supports local people.
- 11000 Number of homes in Hull provided with electricity by the scheme
- 240000 Number of tonnes of carbon saved over the 25 year lifetime of both sites
- 329 Number of acres given back to nature across both sites
Energy is such a vital part of our lives, and yet we have next to no say in how it is generated, how much it costs us or where it comes from. Currently, 95% of the UK’s energy market is controlled by just six companies. Community and local energy is one to help address social issues in the UK such as fuel poverty, climate change and declining communities. Local and community generation provides a way to connect people, places and energy and generate income streams that can be vital for community organisations to become viable and sustainable.
Leapfrog Bridge Finance helped turn what was initially a commercial opportunity into one that supports local people. The investment involved a loan to Gridserve to enable the construction of an 'ultra-advanced' solar farm in York. A key part of the investment was the establishment of a Community Benefit Fund which ensures a proportion of the surplus generated is used to support social wellbeing programmes in the local area, and finance fuel poverty reduction projects. Warrington Borough Council will also own a second site under construction in Hull, also funded by Leapfrog. They will become the first local authority to power its offices, streetlights and several primary schools entirely from renewable energy.
The project was funded by £17.5 million loan from the £76 million Leapfrog Finance Bridge Fund, which Big Society Capital invested £15 million into. Energy generated by the York site is being sold back to the grid and contributes £85,000 per year to the Community Benefit Fund, while the energy from Hull is used to supply all the Council’s needs.
In 2020, Social and Sustainable Capital acquired Leapfrog Bridge Finance and brought it alongside their other community energy initiatives, expanding their presence in the UK renewable energy market.
The solar farm in Hull will produce enough electricity to power almost 11,000 homes. The York hybrid solar project should produce enough energy to power more than 20,000 electric vehicles every year or an entire town of houses. Together, these sites should save over 240,000 equivalent tonnes of CO2 over their 25 year lifetime.
The aim of the Community Benefit Fund is to help with a variety of social issues such addressing fuel poverty, helping people living with disability and long-term health conditions, and supporting young people in deprived areas. Some of the Fund will also be used to turn the farms into nature sanctuaries, with the acquisition of plants and species for 198 acres in York and 131 acres in Hull.