The TEPOS mixed economy local company of Haute Lande transforms grey matter into gold!

The Labouheyre Gymnasium with its photovoltaic roof (c) CC de la Haute Lande

The Labouheyre Gymnasium with its photovoltaic roof (c) CC de la Haute Lande

Published by Kevin Zimmermann on 31/03/2015

The Mixed Economy Local Company (SEML) "TEPOS de la Haute Lande", the fruit of a collaboration between territorial, regional and national actors, is under way. Its founders signed the statutes on Tuesday March 31 2015 in Labouheyre, bringing to life this project of local energy democracy initiated three years earlier.

An element in a more global will and process

On the initiative of the Mayor of the town of Escource, Patrick Sabin, the Community of Councils of Haute Lande (7 towns, 6,000 inhabitants) enthusiastically answered the Aquitaine Region’s call for a show of interest in the development of networks of territories for positive energy in 2012, before joining the national TEPOS network.

Over and above agreeing with the core principles of this initiative, the territory is focused on keeping control over its national resources. The CCHL aims at benefiting directly from the renewable energy income and then using it to finance the energy transition at a local level (particularly energy saving works). Hence, it has decided, in a first stage, not to follow through the project proposals coming from exogenous investment funds. It initiated think tanks to consider the best ways of achieving its ambition, in a time of significant budgetary contraints.

Creating a synergy between the various local actors

This is how the "TEPOS de la Haute Lande" project came into being. The structure of the company materializes the territory’s desire to create synergy between the various local actors, thanks to the following distribution of shares: 50% for the CCHL; 25% (eventually) for inhabitants, through the creation of a citizen cooperative; 22.15% for two innovative regional companies (Valorem, wind turbine developer accounts for 10.15%, and BASE, a start up with a patent for hybrid photovoltaic / solar thermal tiles accounts for 12.5%); 2% for the Enercoop cooperative; 0.05% for each of the 7 towns of the CCHL, to allow them to sit on the Administration Board.

Sparking the financial pump with simple operations…

Concerning the activity of the SEML, the first stage involves generating income quickly to finance its activities. This will be achieved by installing 30 photovoltaic plants on CCHL buildings, producing under 9 kWc per plant in order to obtain the best possible purchasing prices. The investment will essentially be carried out thanks to public funds, particularly via the €500,000 granted to the award winners of the call for proposals "Positive energy territories and green growth" in which the CCHL is involved (under reservation of the conditions of use of this assistance, which hasn’t yet been defined).

...in order to act on global operations with inhabitants

The Aquitaine region has also supported the creation of a full time post to manage the SEML for three years. This will enable the acceleration of surveys for other energy production projects (biomass and methanization particularly, as they are abundant local resources), but also to progress on the questions of energy efficiency. For the sake of exemplarity, this work will be carried out in priority on public buildings, but other projects exist to help private individuals with energy renovation. For example, one idea would be to suggest the inhabitants make their roofs available for the installation of PV plants by the SEML. In return, the SEML promises to retrocede all the benefits generated by solar production to the owner, to finance the house’s energy renovation works.

A progressive participation of citizens and councils in the capital of the SEML

To conclude, there is a very specific synergy between the SEML and the Valorem company that wants to install a wind farm in the town of Escource. When the SEML was created, Valorem took care of its own shares as well of the 25% for citizen cooperation. These shares will then be retroceded to the cooperative once it has been established. Valorem also commits to giving the SEML the possibility of re-purchasing part of the wind farm thanks to the taxes collected. This innovative financial package will enable the CCHL to possess part of the production tool without any initial investment. As a counterpart, the SEML commits to dedicating all its income to the financing of actions leading to the energy transition.