How coronavirus is affecting the Low Carbon Hub – an update for our Members

We hope all our partners, Members, and supporters are currently safe and well in these unprecedented times. When social distancing restrictions went into place in the UK, our immediate priority was to ensure that our staff team were able to continue to work effectively from the safety of their own homes. We also needed to quickly assess the impact of social distancing restrictions on Hub operations.

We’ve now also been able analyse the potential impact on our longer term activities and operation. Our Directors and management team will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Understandably, the world is focused on the immediate issue of tackling the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve been hearing so many stories of the ways that social enterprises and communities have been able to support those most affected by the lockdown – some even drastically changing their operations to do so. It’s a great reminder of why social enterprises and community groups are so important to us all.

It’s also been heartening to know that so many of our Community Group Members are continuing to find ways to raise awareness of climate change, and keep their projects running and communities engaged, even in these times. The Low Carbon Hub team is committed to finding ways that we can support the efforts of our Members, supporters, and partners to address the climate crisis, even during these difficult times.

We hope the following information answers any questions you may have about how the Low Carbon Hub is currently operating. If you have other questions please let us know.

How can I contact a member of the team?

The Low Carbon Hub office is closed, but we’re still operating with our full staff team – we’re just working remotely for the time being. We’re still contactable on the usual channels, by email to info@lowcarbonhub.org or by phone to 01865 246099. Please do not send us post as we cannot currently access it.

If you have specific questions about our financial performance or your investment following this update, please contact our Investor Support Coordinator by email to members@lowcarbonhub.org or by phone on 01865 546452.

Will there be revenue loss from our existing installations?

We do anticipate a small loss of revenue from our existing Low Carbon Hub installations – these are the renewable energy generation projects which we own and manage.

The vast majority of our solar rooftop PV arrays are hosted by 31 local schools. As you’ll be aware, schools are currently closed or running at a much lower capacity. This means that their energy use is changing in terms of how much of the energy generated by their rooftop solar PV panels is used on-site and how much is sold to the electricity grid.

We also have solar rooftop installations hosted by businesses across Oxfordshire, but these businesses are currently operating as normal, so we do not anticipate any revenue loss at this time.

Naturally, we’ve been crunching the numbers behind-the-scenes on how this may impact us. Our estimated potential revenue losses from our school hosts are as follows, based on varying timelines:

  • If disruption lasts 3 months until mid-June 2020: £13,000
  • If disruption lasts 6 months until mid-September 2020: £22,000
  • If disruption lasts 12 months until mid-March 2021: £29,000

Although this is disappointing, it represents a fairly minor loss in revenue for our overall financial performance, a maximum loss of around 5% over 12 months. Our total expected income from our renewable energy installations for these periods in normal times would have been as follows:

  • 3 months: £117,000
  • 6 months: £235,000
  • 12 months: £571,000

Although we anticipate the financial impact on our solar PV installation sales to be relatively small, we are not yet sure how the current situation will impact on our hosts’ administrative and payment systems, and how in turn this may affect the cash flow in the IPS. Our management team and Board will closely monitor this over the coming weeks.

All electricity generated from Sandford Hydro is exported direct to the grid, and so sales are not directly impacted by coronavirus restrictions. However, the optimisation work that we had planned for early this financial year will need to be paused until we are permitted to carry out work on site. We will be shortly writing to Sandford Hydro investors with further details about our optimisation plans, along with a report on the impact of the extreme weather conditions throughout 2019/20 on the hydro’s performance.

What about the maintenance of existing renewable installations?

We continue our online monitoring of installations as normal, with our Operations Manager working remotely. Due to restrictions, we are currently unable to conduct standard site maintenance visits for our solar PV installations, and any repairs are on hold as our contractors are also affected by the restrictions. However, we are up to date with all cleaning and electricity safety testing, although any further cleaning and testing is postponed for the time being.

Site monitoring and general maintenance is continuing at Sandford Hydro as normal, with the support of our external contractor. All staff at Aspire, who usually keep the trash screens at the Hydro clean, are furloughed for the duration of lockdown – but we are keeping the screen clear with help from Low Carbon Hub staff members, paired with a member of their household.

Is the Community Energy Fund share raise still going ahead?

In March we opened our Community Energy Fund to new investment. This was planned long before COVID-19 was on the horizon and so we’re going ahead with the share offer as planned – if you’re an existing investor you should already have received the Share Offer Document through the post.

We feel strongly that, despite the current situation, it’s important for us to continue driving forward our work to tackle climate change and create the zero carbon energy system of the future, and this is what money raised in the Community Energy Fund will go towards.

Therefore, if you’re able to support us we’d love for you to join us as an Investor Member – you can make an investment from as little as £250, and our target interest rate is 5%*. However, we do fully understand that for many, now may be a time of financial uncertainty. If you are unable to invest yourself in these turbulent times, any help you can offer in terms of helping spread the word about the opportunity to those who may be in a position to invest in community energy would be much appreciated.

*Capped at 4% for the first 4 years of investment. Capital at risk, no returns guaranteed.

Will planned new renewables projects be affected?

In terms of our work, we anticipate all planned projects to go ahead, but it may be that timelines have to change, especially with regards to new renewable energy generation sites.

We had two new solar schools in the pipeline – West Witney Primary School and Langford Village Community School – which were completed over February half-term, and so unaffected.

We are also exploring several potential ground mount solar sites as part of Project LEO, which are at various stages of planning. Many aspects of the planning, development and raising of finance for these projects, continues apace. We will continue to monitor how on-going restrictions of movement may impact on our ability to start installations, and also any impact of global restrictions may have on our supply chain. It may be that construction is delayed on some, or all, of these ground mount sites.

Will your other programmes be continuing?

We consider ourselves very fortunate in that that funding for all our key programmes of work have been confirmed for the 2020/21 financial year.  This includes the extension to OxFutures, and our new energy efficiency service for SMEs which is currently under development, both of which we recently announced.

Thanks to the wonder of video conferencing we are constantly in touch with our project partners so, although we are restricted in terms of our being able to deliver services and support on the ground, we are using the time to crack on with a huge amount of planning and development across our projects.

We are also exploring ‘virtual’ ways we can continue to offer support to our community group members and the wider community energy community during these uncertain times. To be kept up to date on this, make sure you’re signed up to receive our monthly Low Carbon Hub newsletter.

Have a question?

If you have a question which hasn’t been addressed in this update please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and a member the Low Carbon Hub team will get back to you as soon as possible.

Our full team is still contactable by the usual channels. If you have specific queries relating to this update, please contact our Investor Support Coordinator by email to members@lowcarbonhub.org or by phone on 01865 546452.

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