1) “How is the Society run?”
Totnes Renewable Energy Society is a co-operative owned by our members, with a set of rules including our aims, and we ask our membership to vote on major decisions. Members elect the Board, who then take the mandate from our AGMs where we set out our strategy for the coming year in order to make day to day decisions about project development, outreach, administration and all our other activities which go in to the running of the Society. We have monthly Board meetings with around 10 people, and weekly work sessions on Tuesdays at the Reconomy Centre in Totnes with around 5-6 people from the team. At other times, we work from home as well as meetings, site visits, advocacy and outreach which take us far and wide.
2) “How can one dispose of one’s shares in the event of need? What happens in the event of death?”
Shares can only be sold back to TRESOC, they are not trade-able. You may withdraw your shares on 180 days notice at the discretion of the Directors, and shares may only be withdrawn 3 years after they were purchased. In the event of death, shares can be transferred to a nominee, a personal representative or bequeathed to TRESOC, although there is a modest admin fee. Please see our rules if you’d like more information.
3) “Does TRESOC investment qualify under the Enterprise Investment Scheme?”
No. At present we do not qualify for EIS because in some cases we”ll invest our money to take an equity stake in another company and we do not own them outright. Our model has been to work with developer partners who help bear the development costs.
4) “Why do the costs for solar projects vary?”
There are two main variables. The cost of the technology is constantly going down and Feed In Tariff rates rise in line with inflation. The rate is also guaranteed for a certain number of years. The duration of the feed-in tariff payments dropped from 25 years to 20 years for solar PV installed after 1 August 2012. Generally speaking, solar systems cost more when installed on roofs (as compared to ground-mounted) because of scaffolding, and the additional time to install. Similarly, lots of smaller systems have a higher cost than one large system on a single roof. In terms of value, research published by the University of East Anglia looked at valuing land for carbon-capture, recreation and bio-diversity… we hope to see a wider appreciation of the use of real estate that’s more in line with the Triple Bottom Line – People, Planet, Profit.
5) “I invested in the first Share Issue – when will I see some interest?”
TRESOC has invested in solar installations, which give us an annual income, although it’s not enough to pay out a dividend/interest to members as yet. Running costs average £21,500 a year which go towards one part time Bookkeeper/Admin manager, accountancy, legal fees, insurance, website hosting, outreach, advocacy, emails, printing, publicity, and so on. TRESOC’s Directors (Finance, Law, Planning, Engineering, Communications), Project Manager and Webmaster volunteer their time. The entire TRESOC team has put in a great many unpaid hours of work. Had Totnes Community Wind Farm gained consent, it is true to say that TRESOC would be in a stronger position financially.
The value of the shares of those who invested in 2010 and 2011 remains the same. TRESOC feels a duty to these shareholders because of their long term support, and our intention is for them to have the same returns as 2014 investors. Therefore, returns to all members will be somewhat lower than they would have been without this historical duty, but with new projects underway and bank financing, modest interest for our members is a priority.
6) Who can invest during a Share Issue?
• All membership applications are subject to approval by the board following the close of a Share Issue.
• Members must be aged 18 or over at the time of applying, and shares can be bought in trust for minors.
• Shares can be bought as gifts by filling in the application form with the recipients details.
• We can only accept applications for membership during a Share Issue where details will be shared in a prospectus.
When TRESOC was established, membership was only open to those living in and around Totnes and its fifteen surrounding parishes. At our SGM in May 2014, members voted to remove the boundary restriction to membership. This simple rule change allows ex-residents, would-be residents, frequent visitors, friends and family and those directly linked to our projects and partners to be eligible for membership. Download a pdf of our old Boundary_map
7) “Can I invest from overseas?”
Yes, although all share issue applications are subject to approval by the board.
8) “How do you decide which projects to focus on for a Share Issue?”
As an active Society, we have a range of projects in various stages of development, so when it comes to a Share Issue, we take a snapshot of where we are and produce a prospectus based on the information we have at that time. Things can and do change, so we can’t offer any guarantees. For example, it’s possible that if a project fell at a late hurdle, or if we raised more than our target during a share issue, we might invest in an earlier-stage project. As well as looking for new projects ourselves, we regularly get suggestions from members and others about further possibilities for renewable energy project, so there is plenty happening at any one time! The key is keeping our members informed as changes occur, organising a vote if need be.
10) “What happens if you get insufficient funds to implement projects described in a Share Issue prospectus?”
If we don’t reach a minimum threshold and we do not have enough money to cover our running costs, then all new investments would be returned in full. Then TRESOC would be wound up, assets sold, and all existing members would get a share in proportion to their investment, taking into account any depreciation. We hope this will never happen!