Solar trains pioneer first UK business to make legal commitment to ‘just transition’

Author: FPF

Date: 23/09/2020

World-leading solar rail pioneer Riding Sunbeams has incorporated a commitment to a ‘just transition’ in its legal rules of governance, making it the first UK company to do this.


Unlike other companies who have committed to socially and environmentally responsible behaviour, Riding Sunbeams wrote a just transition commitment into its legal working agreement. This means that any decision taken by the company will be made in line with the principles of a just transition.


The news follows the team securing their first commercial funding from Thrive Renewables and Friends Provident Foundation. Founded by climate charity Possible and Community Energy South, Riding Sunbeams will use this investment to develop a pipeline of new renewable energy projects in South East England and the Valleys in South Wales to deliver on their aim to help decarbonise the rail system and benefit commuters and local communities. The new working capital will enable Riding Sunbeams to provide a commercial route to market for community energy groups looking for new projects to develop and connect them to regional rail network operators like Network Rail who will pay them a fair price for their power. This will enable rail network operators to source competitively priced green electricity at the same time as supporting local communities, as well as the UK’s efforts to achieve a net zero economy.


The team proved the technical concept of powering railways directly by solar power with its First Light demonstrator project in Aldershot last year. Riding Sunbeams is currently leading another First of a Kind project for Innovate UK and the Department for Transport, which aims to power electrified rail networks which run on alternating current (AC) power from overhead lines.

We are delighted that both Thrive and the Friends Provident Foundation have chosen to invest in Riding Sunbeams. This reflects enormous confidence in our purpose to deliver competitively priced, unsubsidised low carbon energy directly to the rail network, with a clear commitment to community ownership. The investment will accelerate our already well advanced technical development, and establish the appropriate commercial framework with rail system operators for them to take advantage of these opportunities as soon as possible.

Ivan Stone, CEO of Riding Sunbeams

We are very excited to be a part of this pioneering model. By unblocking the potential and benefits of community energy and enabling large energy users, like railways, to both decarbonise and add value to the communities they operate in, Riding Sunbeams exemplifies what a just transition to a decarbonised economy looks like. I know of few impact investments that offer such a myriad of social and environmental benefits as community energy, but there are also too few investment opportunities. Riding Sunbeams provides the opportunity to remove systemic barriers and unleash the potential of community energy to play a key role in ensuring a just transition that leaves no one behind.

Colin Baines, Investment Engagement Manager, Friends Provident Foundation

We are incredibly proud to provide commercial funding to Riding Sunbeams, which aligns perfectly with our mission to power the transition to a sustainable energy future by helping people meaningfully connect with clean energy projects. It is a great example of individual investors, communities, businesses and charities coming together to deliver better, cleaner infrastructure which serves people’s needs and is fit for the future.We have a track record of successful partnerships with community energy groups, funding construction of wind and solar projects owned by local people. Riding Sunbeams has the potential to take that to a whole new level by creating a new route to market for community energy groups’ clean electricity and making rail travel even more sustainable.

Matthew Clayton, Managing Director at Thrive Renewables

Riding Sunbeams hopes to demonstrate a new, fairer, greener way to do business and embody how a just transition is possible by bringing together charities, communities, corporates and government to decarbonise and power the rail network. With its world-leading model it intends to boost the community energy sector and overcome existing barriers like grid constraints and energy price volatility, to ensure local people benefit from projects in their neighbourhood. Community groups and developers with eligible projects are being encouraged to get in touch with the organisation.