Marks & Spencer is raising £1.23m to install solar panels on nine of its stores and help achieve its renewable energy commitment.
The retailer is inviting its customers to invest from £100 to £100,000 in the M&S Energy Society in return for 5% interest.
The initiative, in conjunction with provider Energy4All, will pay for solar panels on up to nine M&S stores across England.
The retailer will buy back the energy generated to use in its stores, so cutting CO2 emissions and helping meet its green energy commitment of ensuring 50% of electricity in its UK and Republic of Ireland buildings comes from small-scale renewable sources by 2020.
Interest, at an initial target 5%, will be paid to society members in arrears from September 2017, rising annually from the third year onwards by the rate of inflation.
After interest has been paid, the society will return any remaining funds to community good causes chosen by the society’s members; capital will be repaid during the scheme’s lifetime, enabling more funds to be paid to the Community Benefit Scheme.
Lord Bourne, minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, praised M&S’ commitment to clean energy.
“This new initiative from M&S is an excellent example of private enterprise working with its customers to produce clean, green energy and support local community groups. I would urge other companies to follow suit.”
M&S’ Plan A project manager Lydia Hopton said the project was a great opportunity for customers to invest in green energy, help the environment and support community groups.
“We’re really excited that M&S will be the first retailer to launch a scheme of this kind,” she said.
Mike Smyth, chair of Energy4All, said there was an appetite for community energy funds where investors could see the difference their investments made.
“Every pound invested means more solar panels, increasing renewable energy generation and cutting carbon emissions every day.”
M&S installed its first solar panels at Muswell Hill in 2010. Five years later it completed the installation of the UK’s largest single roof-mounted solar panel array on its East Midlands distribution centre in Castle Donington. The panels spans the site’s 900,000 sq ft roof and generates over 5,000 MWh of electricity per year, the equivalent amount of energy to power 1,190 houses.