Just what is a Community Benefit Society?

So you’re not for profit, but not a charity? You’re not a business, but you’ll be looking for investors for the hydroelectric project? People can join as members and vote for directors at your Annual General Meeting, and agree where community funds can go, but you’re not a cooperative or a Community Interest Company, Social Enterprise……

These questions and many more are what we get asked frequently and are even queries we had when choosing the best model to enable Reading Hydro to become a reality and support it thriving in the future.

Why a Community Benefit Society?

Just like a charity we have “Objects” which specify what we do and how we commit to benefiting the community and the environment. Our reason for being!

The objects of Reading Hydro CBS are, to carry on any business for the benefit of the community by:

  1. The development, financing, installation, management, operation, generation, transmission and supply of energy from renewable and low carbon energy sources
  2. The conservation of energy through supporting energy efficiency and energy use reduction.
  3. Returning proportional benefit to the community.
  4. The promotion and awareness of environmental and related issues with support for educational initiatives
  5. Enabling the local and wider community to invest in renewable energy and low carbon generation.

What’s so important about Community focus and involvement?

We are set up for the benefit of the local community and look to achieve this through building a hydroelectric scheme on the river Thames at Caversham to generate clean electricity that can be sold to raise community funds for further projects.

It will take a while to get to this stage. To begin with the scheme will be funded by early stage donations and grants, before it is opened up for public investment, probably through a share offer.

The assets (hydro scheme) and liabilities will be held by the society and once all the shareholders have been paid back the hydro scheme and the profit from it will be for the benefit of the local community.

The assets are locked which means that they cannot be sold for the benefit of the directors or members.

In the initial years we have to pay back our investors, so only a small proportion of the income from selling electricity can go to the community. When investors are fully paid back, all the profit will go to the community. We are looking at generating long-term, sustainable funding here.

Why Membership for £1?

Reading Hydro members elect the directors on the basis of one member one vote: in this respect we are similar to a cooperative, autonomous and controlled by members. Part of becoming a member includes paying £1 for a share. This entitles you to one vote at general meetings, as well as getting involved in our day to day activities as much as you’d like.

Will I be able to invest more?

We are always happy to receive donations, no matter how small, and in-kind support. When we open the hydro scheme for public investment, you will be able to invest more in it, and this investment will earn a small return.

It all sounds great, right? So what are you waiting for? Join us!

For more information on Community Benefit Society you can read about them on the Community Shares website    or on DECC. Alongside this we recently went to an inspiring conference from The Plunkett Foundation, which gave examples of the many forms a CBS can take, from pubs, farms to Whiskey distilleries!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top