Empowering Communities with Local Renewable Energy

Clean energy means our energy system is evolving. Let’s face it: the old thinking of the large, polluting plants no longer works, and it has not worked for a long time. 

Over the last fifteen years energy generation has moved to smaller, cleaner energy sources which – crucially – involve local communities. This gives people more control over where their energy comes from and how it affects their lives. 

Indeed, clean energy is not just about the environment and security – it is also about fairness, making energy more affordable, and building stronger communities. Community Energy plays an important role in this transition to clean energy. 

Brighton Energy Co-operative has long been working on local community-owned clean energy. BEC generates solar power across more than 60 partner host sites, including schools, colleges, universities, businesses, churches, and community buildings. Each solar system is funded by our 700+ members who get a decent return. 2% of revenue generated is reinvested into local projects for renewable energy education​ via our BEC Community Fund. 

This approach enables surplus income to be reinvested into more local renewable energy projects, directly benefiting local people and driving down carbon emissions. Our projects emphasise local control, accountability, tangible benefits within the community, promoting stronger community connections and sustainable development.

BEC Co-founder Will Cottrell says –

“Community Energy groups like BEC can reshape our understanding of energy. We empower individuals to take greater control over their energy supply, actively engage in renewables, and contribute to reducing demand on the fossil fuel energy system.”

It’s a participatory approach that promotes a deeper connection with and responsibility for our energy consumption and its impacts.

Genfit wiring Brighton Energy inverters Newhaven Port

Who are Brighton Energy Co-operative?

Brighton Energy was established in 2010. Since then, we have developed large-scale renewable energy projects, funding and installing over 100 solar rooftop projects across schools, businesses and community buildings. Collectively, these installations generate 6,650 MWh of electricity annually, helping to power the local community and support the sustainable energy transition.

Since 2010, BEC has taken a leading role in deploying community-owned solar energy projects across Sussex. We are the largest solar owner in the South East and have successfully installed solar PV systems on the roofs of Maidstone United Football Club, Infinity Foods Wholesale warehouse, and numerous educational institutions including Brighton University, GBMET and Ore Valley College. In addition, we have developed significant agricultural projects like the large PV arrays at Bolney and Rathfinny Wine Estates and a 300kW system at Newhaven Port, which generates over 300 MWh of clean energy annually – equivalent to planting 24,000 trees.

Head of Facilities at Greater Brighton Metropolitan College Jon Rollings says –

“We worked closely with Brighton Energy to install solar PV on our four sites in Worthing and Brighton. BEC have been helpful, responsive to our requirements and really straightforward to work with.”

If you’d like to see more local action on climate change via the community energy model please share this blog with friends and colleagues to help spread the word.

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