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A Buddhist centre in Colchester, a steam railway in the Pennines and a tennis club in Penzance. Three organisations that you would not normally associate with each other. However, they have a common theme – community energy. 

All of them are through to the public vote stage of the M&S Energy Community Energy Fund, where projects can win a share of up to£400,000 in grants.

In all, we had 240 applications for funding, which we think is a great result. Of course we had the familiar advocates of this growing movement and organisations such as Village Halls, Community Centres and Sports Clubs made up the majority of applications. But we were also really excited by the varied nature of the more niche applicants who demonstrate that the idea of producing and using your own energy is becoming more mainstream than many would have thought. 

Shortlisting the applications was tough and projects had to demonstrate that they had a clear business case, including their own funds. It was also an important element of the judging criteria that entrants could show that they had community support, as well as how their project would benefit the community as a whole. Eventually, we whittled the list down to 136 projects,and the public can now decide which ones they think are most deserving of the funds. When voting closes on the 30th September, those that have the most votes will win their regional grant or one of the two national grants. 

However, it doesn’t end there for the projects that don’t get the highest number of votes. These will then be judged by a panel of experts and discretionary grants will be awarded to those that impress the judges for being the most innovative or inspiring.

Our fund is just one of many that are available to community organisations looking to reduce their costs and carbon footprint. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) have two funds available, one for urban and one for rural projects. Crowdfunding is also a great way to help fund installations of renewable technology and the UK based Crowdfunder has helped a number of projects get the required funding in place. So if you are a member of a sports club, or a religious group or any community interest company then now is the perfect time to get a project funded.  

It goes without saying that saving energy is a big priority for many of us and these organisations are no different. All live by the mantra that there is no point in producing renewable energy if you are not energy efficient to begin with.

We’re always looking for ways to make Plan A more relevant to the places where our customers and employees live and work, and the Community Energy Fund gets right to the heart of supporting our communities.And it is also part of the bigger picture at M&S Energy. Our commitment to sourcing responsibly in a world that is increasingly resource constrained is central to Plan A and in July this year, we moved to supplying 100% of M&S Energy’s customers’ electricity from renewable sources. We celebrated this with the launch of the Community Energy Fund to deliver additional environmental benefits on behalf of M&S Energy customers.

Now it’s over to you. Please vote for your favourite project at Every vote counts and you will be helping to create more renewable energy sources at a project near you.