Hydro-electric scheme makes a splash with investors and gets go-ahead

November 14, 2011

A hydro-electric scheme in Yorkshire has tapped into a raft of investors wishing to invest in community environmental projects and generated enough interest to launch its next phase.

Esk Valley Community Energy Group has joined the ranks of those challenging the orthodoxy that the role of business is solely about the relentless pursuit of profit and, with advice and consultancy from The Co-operative Enterprise Hub, is seeking to establish a small-scale hydro-electric turbine, known as an Archimedes screw, in the local river near Whitby.

After registering as a co-operative, Esk Energy (Yorkshire) Limited, it launched a community share issue setting out its case to generate sustainable energy on the River Esk in Ruswarp and, the money flooded in.

The community share issue realised £125,000 in little over three months - further illustration that the co-operative economy is no longer regarded as a business backwater – and, with grants and loans in place, directors this week approved the next phase of the project.

When completed, in summer 2012, the ‘fish-friendly’ 50kw hydroelectric turbine will generate around 200,000kWh of sustainable energy in a typical year, cutting an estimated 3,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over its lifetime.

The success of the community share issue coincides with the launch of a new report entitled “The New Pioneers” – an annual review of the work of The Co-operative Enterprise Hub* illustrating how communities, by embracing the co-operative model, can support the economy for future generations and tackle some of the unprecedented challenges facing our society.

The Co-operative Group, the UK’s largest mutual business, is at the forefront of the resurgence of this alternative approach to enterprise and, has committed an additional £7.5m between 2012-14, enabling The Co-operative Enterprise Hub to continue supporting fledgling and expanding member-owned enterprises across the UK.

From left to right: Colin Mather, Mike Loftus, Mike Ford, Sarah Stead and Caryn Loftus

Michael Fairclough, The Co-operative Group’s Head of Community and Co-operative Investment, said: “The co-operative business model has been described as an old solution to a modern problem. Fundamentally, it gives people a voice, a say in how services are delivered and, it is a model that is being increasingly adopted.

“As more and more people rediscover the benefits of self-help and mutual ownership, the co-operative alternative will, without doubt, play an increasing part in fostering future enterprise – contributing to the rebuilding of a more balanced and stable UK economy.”

Colin Mather, a retired civil engineer and Chair of Esk Valley Community Energy Group, said; “One of our sayings is ‘think global, act local!’ and, our scheme offers people a chance to do their bit to protect the environment while generating a new source of sustainable green energy. We are delighted with the response to the share issue and, although, we know that there is still a lot of hard work ahead, it illustrates that by working together, co-operating, amazing things can be achieved.”

Directors of Esk Valley Community Energy Group have decided to keep its share offer open: “the more share applications we have the less we require loan finance” continued Colin Mathers “It will mean more money to provide investors with a return on their investment while, promoting green energy educational programmes, pioneering green energy apprenticeships and, developing further carbon reduction projects.”

Shares are still available from as little as £250 (up to a maximum of £20,000) and further information is available at www.whitbyeskenergy.org.uk

For further information about setting up a co-operative enterprise and the free support, advice and finance available to new and existing co-operative businesses, contact The Co-operative Enterprise Hub at www.co-operative.coop/enterprisehub

Additional Information:


* The Co-operative Enterprise Hub offers free advice, training and consultancy to new and existing co-operatives – supporting the creation and growth of sustainable member-owned enterprises across the UK. It represents a significant investment in the co-operative sector by The Co-operative Group, the UK’s largest mutual business. Available nationally, the service is delivered locally by a network of co-operative development specialists. Further information is available at www.co-operative.coop/enterprisehub

About The Co-operative Group: The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest mutual business, owned not by private shareholders but by over six million consumers.  It is the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, the leading convenience store operator and a major financial services provider, operating The Co-operative Bank, Britannia and The Co-operative Insurance. Among its other businesses are the number one funeral services provider and Britain’s largest farming operation. As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Group has also set out its social and sustainability goals in its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, which specifies almost 50 commitments in these areas. The Group operates 4,800 retail trading outlets, employs more than 106,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than £13bn.  Further information is available at www.co-operative.coop

Contact Information:


Andrew Torr
The Co-operative Group Press Office
Tel: 0161 827 5622
Mob: 07702 505551
Email: andrew.torr@co-operative.coop