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Washington goes solar M&G Real Estate is installing the UK’s largest shopping centre solar panel system at the Galleries shopping centre in Washington, Tyne and Wear as part of a portfoliowide commitment to reducing the environmental impact of its centres. At the Galleries M&G Real Estate has installed 1,317 individual photovoltaic panels on an otherwise unused part of the centre roof. The system covers an area of 41,000 sq ft – equivalent to a professional football pitch –and it is expected to generate around 315,000 kWh of electricity, enough to power 68 UK households for a year and saving around 165 tonnes of CO2 annually. It is anticipated that 95 to 100 per cent of the electricity it produces will be consumed on site and ‘sold’ to the centre to repay the considerable upfront investment of its installation over time, with very little excess exported to the National Grid. John Duxbury, head of retail and asset management at M&G Real Estate explains why M&G decided to finance the project as the landlord. “We’re investing to take an income return,” he says, “so we needed scale. We’ll sell the electricity to the centre at the tariff rate and it’ll power a good proportion of the common parts.” He estimates the installation will provide M&G with a return of SHOPPING CENTRE MARCH 2017

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around 10 per cent pa, and for M&G the key point is that this beats the return on many property investments at the moment. As a result Duxbury said M&G is looking at similar schemes on other retail sites including, for the first time, retail parks. The investment at Washington is in line with the long-standing commitment by M&G Real Estate to improve the energy efficiency of its UK shopping centre portfolio. “As a business, we are committed to reducing the amount of energy we use and to shifting the balance so that our power comes from renewable sources more of the time,” says Duxbury. He sees three forces driving M&G towards a greener approach to property investment. “Our investors are calling for it, and they ask difficult questions of us,” he says. “Retailers want to see costs managed especially at a time when they’re facing headwinds, and consumers are increasingly aware of it.” Other initiatives have included the roll-out of innovative energy

01/03/2017 09:04:10

Shopping Centre Magazine March 2017  
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