NICE ‘free’ Solar PV Installation Offer Explained   ‘share your roof’

Benefits for Roof Providers

Many 3rd sector organisations such as charities, community centres/sports halls, social enterprises etc, have roofs suitable for solar panels. If you have a roof suitable, then by joining NICE you will be able to reduce the running costs of your community building by generating some of your own electricity. At the same time you will enable your local community to contribute to the solar panel installation and to share in the benefits of your solar installation by investing and owning part of it. By sharing your roof with NICE, you benefit from a solar panel installation that will be installed entirely at NICE’s cost, i.e., you pay nothing for the installation. Once installed, the electricity generated by the solar panels is available for use in your own building at a considerably reduced rate compared with the cost of the equivalent electricity taken from the National Grid. Each unit of solar-generated electricity you use effectively replaces a unit of electricity that you would otherwise have to purchase from your electricity supplier. And you pay NICE only 5.5p per kWh (unit) for any solar-generated electricity you use in the building, representing an average saving of 10p per kWh (calculated on an average current cost of 15.5p kWh). This not only reduces the running costs of your building but also insures against future energy cost increases. And by allowing the local community to both invest in and share in the benefits of your roof then the whole community benefits.

Who looks after the solar panels?

NICE looks after all aspects of the system for you and you don’t have to worry about anything. The system works seamlessly with your existing electricity supply and the only way you will notice it’s there, other than seeing the panels on your roof, is by seeing a reduction in your electricity costs. NICE does everything else for you including dealing with the insurance, monitoring and maintenance of the system, as well as the administration of the community members who have invested in the various NICE community roofs.

How long does the arrangement last?

The PV system installed on your roof is owned and maintained by NICE for a period of 20 years, after which ownership of the system is handed over to you free of charge. As the solar panels are expected to have a useful life of 35-40 years, then you will continue to enjoy the benefits of the solar installation for many years.

How can NICE afford to do this?

Well firstly NICE, as an incorporated community benefit society co-operative, is a not-for-profit organisation and is focussed on maintaining low running costs. NICE is able to take advantage of the lower prices available from large scale purchasing possible because it represents and works collectively with a range of community organisations in a co-operative rather than commercial manner. NICE generates income primarily by claiming renewable energy generation tariffs, from selling any solar-generated electricity that you do not use in the building to PowerNI, and finally from the small charge levied for the solar-generated electricity used in the building itself. This income is then used to cover the costs of the installation and running costs, including the cost of raising and repaying the money used to purchase the equipment.

What happens to any surplus income NICE generates?

An annual surplus after covering expenses will enable the co-operative to give a moderate interest payment as a return to investing members (forecasted up to 4%).  Also one of NICE primary objectives is the creation of a community benefit fund to allow the society to roll out further renewable energy and energy efficiency projects/services to the local community. The advantage of this scheme is that the money from the generation tariffs etc. stays in Northern Ireland and benefits the local community. Investment opportunities will be made available from which funding for future projects will be generated. Later phases of the project may have potential for job creation.

How does this differ from commercial ‘Free PV Rent-A-Roof’ arrangements?

Unlike the ‘Free PV’ offerings from commercial businesses, you do not rent your roof or roof space to NICE. Instead, you collaborate with NICE by agreeing to share your roof with NICE for a period of 20 years. In the very unlikely event that you wish to take over the ownership and maintenance of the system within the 20 year agreement period then, unlike the commercial ‘rent-a-roof’ arrangements, NICE offers a flexible and entirely fair/equitable way of doing this without any of the penalties which are a feature of all rent-a-roof schemes. As a community benefit society co-operative, NICE’s ethos is one of representing participating community building owners and their member communities and acting only in their collective best interests.

How does NICE raise the initial funds?

NICE will run a community share offer to raise the necessary funds, and there will be investment opportunities for the community you serve and for your own centre. This means that, in addition to electricity cost savings delivered to the community building, a share of the surplus income will return (by payment of share interest) to the very people interested in supporting what you do.

Who directs and controls NICE?

Participating building owners and any community members investing in NICE will co-own the enterprise on a ‘one-member-one-vote’ basis. In this way you will have your say on how the NICE is run! As a roof provider you will become a member of the Society and a co-owner of the enterprise, involved in its running and decision-making processes.

Is my building and organisation eligible under the NICE proposal?

NICE welcomes enquiries from community organisations preferably with an asset lock and charities, community benefit societies, community interest company, registered social landlord, sports association or an equivalent body or is owned by the public sector. Roof owners should first satisfy themselves that:

  1. Their building and roof are owned by a community organisation, a charity or a public sector body.
  2. Not a listed building nor in a conservation area.
  3. A suitable unshaded roof or ground, minimum size 90 sq m with a roof facing within 45 degrees of South (SE,S, SW).
  4. There are no significant shading issues.
  5. Annual electricity costs over £3000.
  6. Majority of electricity during daylight hours and the potential to use most if not all of the electricity generated on site.
  7. A 3 phase electricity supply.
  8. The organisation is willing and able to become a member of NICE.
  9. Their governing body is able to make decisions promptly (installations are financed on a first come first served basis).

Please contact NICE to express your interest in our offer. We will have an initial conversation and if mutually interested NICE will:

  1. Conduct a feasibility study on site, including planning permission and day time usage.
  2. Obtain quotes from potential installers – all MCS certified.
  3. Be satisfied of project profitability.
  4. Complete a legal title search.
  5. Check building owner is not a private for profit company nor an individual, and preferably has an asset lock, and is a charity, community benefit society, community interest company, registered social landlord, sports association or an equivalent body, or is owned by the public sector.
  6. Commence Northern Ireland Electricity process if necessary – usually for installations over 12kW.
  7. Prepare a binding legal agreement and license, to be signed by the community organisation.

Upon receipt of the legal agreement and licence, NICE will commission the installation, subject to sufficient shares being raised at that point. Installations will be commissioned on a first come, first served basis. In other words, the first community organisations to come with a signed binding legal agreement and licence will be the first roofs to be served with NICE solar PV installations.

What is the legal agreement and licence?

NICE employed a solicitor and barrister in the development of the legal agreement and licence, and to ensure compatibility with Northern Ireland legislation. The agreement with roof owners has a maximum term of 20.5 years, to allow for an initial setup period followed by a 20 year period over which NICE earns NIROCs on the electricity generated by the installations. The agreement clearly sets out the roles and responsibilities of both NICE and a roof owner, protecting the interests of both parties and embodying an underlying spirit of co-operation:

  • The roof owner licenses NICE to share the roof and to permit the installation of solar panels.
  • The roof owner benefits from reduced energy costs, becomes a member of the society, and as such has a say in the running of the Society.
  • NICE benefits from the NIROCS income and from export and usage tariffs.
  • NICE is responsible for monitoring, insurance, maintenance and repair of the solar installation over the term of the agreement.
  • After the 20.5 year term expires, title to the PV solar array and equipment passes to the roof owner who can then expect to enjoy free electricity from the panels for many years.
  • A roof owner has the option to buy the installation from NICE. Where this option is exercised, the Society would consult members about how to use the proceeds, for example earlier repayment of shares, and/or re-investment into other sites