Our Community Impact award recognises Charity Bank borrowers that have made a significant positive impact on their local community or the community they serve through the work they do.
Green Energy Mull (GEM) was formed by Mull and Iona Community Trust in 2012 from a community-led initiative to investigate renewable energy options on the island. After commissioning a feasibility study and options appraisal, hydroelectric energy was identified as the best option, and a site at Garmony on the Isle of Mull was chosen.
As an Industrial and Provident Society operating as a Community Benefit Company, all of GEM’s assets and income are used for the benefit of the community.
Despite several complex challenges, particularly with securing a firm grid connection, GEM managed to complete the scheme on schedule and Garmony Hydro was commissioned in June 2015.
The hydroelectric scheme has reduced the island’s carbon footprint, increased energy security in this remote part of the UK and generated additional income to support community projects on the Isles of Mull and Iona.
GEM offered investors in the project (two-thirds of whom come from the Isles) an ethical investment opportunity with steady returns. It has also set up The Waterfall Fund, an independent charity that receives the net profits from the Garmony Hydro Scheme and distributes them as grants to community projects.
The Garmony Hydro produces an annual output of just over 1,000MWh of electricity, which equates to the amount required to power around 120 homes. Income from both electricity sales and Feed in Tariffs (FiTs) has allowed GEM to service loan finance, pay an impressive interest rate of 4% on investor shares, and accumulate reserves.
It has also allowed GEM to gift £25,000 each year to The Waterfall Fund. So far, the charity has helped support 30 community projects on Mull and Iona, including a summer camp for Iona Primary School pupils, equipment for Mull First Aid, and repairs and refurbishments for several sports and leisure activity clubs.
The Garmony Hydro Scheme is a highly sustainable project that uses mature technology which should continue to benefit the local community for a long time to come. GEM looks forward to continuing to reduce its carbon footprint on the Isles and produce investor returns. As loan finance is repaid, it should gradually have more net profit available to support The Waterfall Fund and many more community development projects.
GEM would also like to set up further renewable energy initiatives in the future, depending on the funding and financial landscape.
The Green Energy Mull hydroelectric scheme was supported by a loan from Charity Bank.