Making the most of the sunshine – with the help of a loan from the diocese
The PCC was able to sign up for higher Government Feed in Tariff (FIT) rates before they changed last year, thanks to a loan from the Diocese of Truro.
It was a race against time, because the Government had decided to reduce the amount of money it was prepared to pay for the surplus energy generated by the St Gluvias solar panels. Get in before the cut-off date and the church could rely on a 20-year commitment to a higher rate per KWh. But miss the deadline, and the PCC would receive a lower return on its investment over the coming two decades – a significant amount of money was at stake.
So the PCC successfully applied to the diocese for a loan under the diocese’s social investment policy and received £12,500 to be paid back over an agreed period.
PCC treasurer Richard Hopper said: “We needed the loan because the period was very short in which to maintain entitlement to the higher FIT, and we needed to raise funds to get a new roof in place and pay for three legal agreements to be drafted and signed.
“The loan has given the immediate benefit of FIT income at a good rate, guaranteed and Retail Price Index-linked for 20 years.
“The roof that was essential for it has halved our heating energy demand. In turn the clean solar PV energy enables further possibilities: battery storage to give time-shifted energy and using more of our generated energy locally.
“That in turn paves the way for a future heating replacement project, which will draw on the government’s renewable heat incentive.
“So the solar PV is a significant element in a sequence which started with cavity wall insulation, double-glazed windows and insulated roof; and will be followed by battery storage and renewable heat – an air-source heat pump.
“Throughout this our energy efficiency is improving and our carbon footprint is being reduced. Green and lean!”
The diocese is approached from time to time to make loans of this nature, and does have limited funds to use this way.
In this instance, the loan was to enable to PCC to take advantage of a changing government policy situation which meant there was a clear rationale for investing as soon as possible.
Examples of scenarios in which loans will be considered include, but are not restricted to:
- Where the VAT will ultimately be recoverable under the listed place of worship scheme, but the work must be paid for first, so the loan is to cover the VAT element until the grant is received.
- Where planning permission is required for the sale of some land or a church hall, with the loan being to fund the application for planning, which will then be repaid from the sale of the asset.
- Where a PCC is looking for partial funding for a renewable energy project, and seeks a loan for the balance of funds, to be repaid over time from the feed-in-tariffs or other renewable incentives.
The presumption is that such loans will be repaid from the funds generated or VAT repaid from the project. The diocese will not normally consider loans to PCCs without an identifiable source of repayment.
The loans are made on an interest-free basis, but there are several criteria that will be taken into account when considering any application – such as whether the project to be funded meets one or more of the Anglican Communion’s Marks of Mission (click here to see those), whether or not the PCC asking for a loan pays its MMF contributions in full, or whether there are significant PCC reserves that could be used.
A legally-binding agreement is made between the PCC and the diocese, although individual PCC members are not required to provide any personal financial guarantee.
Loans can range in amount from £1 to £100,000, but the larger the loan, the shorter the repayment period.
Click here to read further details of the scheme.
Click here to download the application form.