Participatory finance (or crowdfunding) is an alternative funding mechanism that uses an internet platform to give members of the public the opportunity to fund an identified project. Long confined to the cultural or humanitarian fields, this type of funding is gaining ground in the renewable energy sector since it makes it possible to involve people who live near these projects in their development, give them access to specific information, and ensure they benefit financially from their involvement. More generally, this funding method helps ensure shared local inclusion in the Group’s activities. ENGIE has used and is using participatory finance to fund several wind and solar projects in Belgium and France.
Installation of a wind turbine blade in Belgium
In Belgium, ENGIE Electrabel is the leading participatory finance player for renewable energy. To achieve its ambition to exceed 550 MW of installed onshore wind capacity, ENGIE Electrabel decided to maintain an open dialogue with people living near its projects and to allow them to invest close to home. This is why wind energy projects are being developed in collaboration with local cooperatives. In the absence of these cooperatives, the wind farms put into operation are opened to community involvement via the Electrabel CoGreen cooperative.
ENGIE Electrabel: a leading partner
ENGIE Electrabel shares its expertise in the development, construction and maintenance of wind farms with local partners. The company does this through sustainable public-private partnerships with local authorities. This collaboration between ENGIE Electrabel and the public sector aims at promoting the development of new wind farms. Since June 2015, several companies have been set up to give a new dynamic to wind energy projects:
- Wind4Flanders: a 50/50 partnership between Electrabel and Flemish inter-municipal companies
- Wind4Wallonia and Wind4Wallonia 2: a 50/50 partnership between Electrabel and Walloon inter-municipal companies
- GreenSky: an Electrabel, Infrabel, Sint-Truiden and IBE partnership for wind turbines along the E40 motorway. This is a major wind farm in Belgium with 16 wind turbines currently in operation spread over six municipalities, four provinces and two regions. The farm is connected directly to the Infrabel grid.
In addition, ENGIE Electrabel wishes to foster an open dialogue and a lasting partnership with local residents. These are the company’s priorities. The Electrabel CoGreen cooperative was created in 2013 to help achieve them. When no other community cooperative is present on a project, CoGreen gives local residents the possibility to invest in wind farms built in or near their municipality. In practical terms, local residents help achieve Belgium's green production goals while benefiting from the dividend paid by Electrabel CoGreen.
Investing in your wind turbine with CoGreen
When the capital is opened for the wind turbines of a new wind farm, all local residents concerned can buy shares in ENGIE Electrabel CoGreen scrl. The only conditions are (1) to be of legal age and (2) to live in one of the municipalities listed for each project on the Electrabel CoGreen website. Each shareholder may purchase a maximum of 20 shares with a value of €125 each (€2,500 per shareholder). The dividend paid each year depends on the amount of electricity produced by wind turbines close to local residents. There is no guarantee of a minimum dividend, but Electrabel CoGreen aims for a return of 3.5%.
At the end of the 10-year period binding ENGIE Electrabel to local residents, the contract is terminated and the capital invested is returned. The investment may be extended for a further ten years. Local residents may also request repayment of their shares after a period of three years.
Since the creation of Electrabel CoGreen, 22 wind farms with a total of 74 turbines (176 MW) have already been opened to community participation via this cooperative. Some 2009 residents have already invested in a wind farm via CoGreen for a total amount of €4 million. For the 2017 financial year, a dividend corresponding to an average yield per share of 4.85% was distributed after approval by the General Meeting. This is above the target yield of 3.5%. The dividend offered varies from one farm to another. This difference is related to the actual production generated by each farm in 2017.
In France, ENGIE Green, which at the end of 2017 integrated the development, operation and maintenance activities of Compagnie du Vent's wind energy projects and Solairedirect's solar projects into its portfolio, is the leading player in terms of participatory finance for renewable energies.
Participatory finance reflects ENGIE Green’s resolve to closely involve local residents and the general public in its renewable energy projects. In 2017, ENGIE Green raised funds for two wind farms in Scaër (Finistère) via the Greenchannel participatory finance platform. In early 2018, ENGIE Green decided to launch new participatory finance campaigns and intends to raise funds via the Enerfip participatory finance platform for the development of two solar farms: one in Montane Nord (Corrèze) and another in Saint-Gilles (Gard).