A brighter, cleaner, community owned energy future IS possible
By Anders Lorenzen & Kirstie Wielandt, HUB Eco Series Coordinators
Photos by Simon Scarfe
Tuesday 29th of January saw the launch of the HUB Eco Series; an event series hosted by HUB Islington with the intention of creating positive debate around the key national and international environmental issues of our time.
Our launch event was devoted to the subject of the UK potential of green community energy cooperatives and featured a distinguished speaker panel consisting of Agamemnon Otero, Founder of Repowering South London and Co-Director of Brixton Energy, Howard Johns, Founder of Ovesco and Southern Solar, Claire Hierons, CEO of Carbon Leapfrog and Nigel Farren, Founder of Energise Barnet.
HUB Islington, on the fourth floor of a converted Victorian warehouse behind Angel tube station, was packed to the rafters with 70 guests from across the London HUB networks, local Transition Town groups, NGOs, renewables industry experts and environmental activists.
Agamemnon Otero of Repowering South London, opened the presentations with an overview of the success story of Repowering South London and Brixton Energy, two highly successful pioneering initiatives which have firmly placed community energy on the map of London. Aside from the obvious environmental benefits of saved carbon emissions, Aga was keen to highlight that green energy co-ops have a massive social impact; profits from Brixton Energy’s solar panels on the rooftops of one of London’s most deprived council estates have resulted in the establishment of a popular local ‘energy efficiency fund’ which has helped the community save on their bills.
Howard Johns of Southern Solar (Brixton Energy’s installer), reiterated that community energy initiatives were absolutely central to creating the energy revolution we so badly need, highlighting that while Germany has over 600 energy co-ops (more than 50% of Germany’s renewable energy is community owned), only 23 such initiatives exist in the UK.
Claire Hierons of Carbon Leapfrog, praised the success of all the panelists initiatives and posed the poignant question whether there were simply more people interested in energy co-ops in Germany or whether the lack of uptake in the UK was symptomatic of a UK awareness blockage of sorts. She encouraged everyone to reach out beyond our established green networks and engage more people in discussions around the extensive economic and social benefits of community energy, appealing to anyone interested in even exploring ideas to contact Carbon Leapfrog for advice and help with resourcing.
Nigel Farren of Energise Barnet, who also sits on the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) community energy board, rounded up the presentations by explaining how he set up Energise Barnet as his local council was not doing enough to improve energy efficiency at a local level. He believes that community energy groups needs to be run with a business mentality, highlighting that initiatives are often started by well meaning volunteers who will need the energy to plough through the bureaucracy and become full time members of staff in the long run.
A discussion and Q&A followed the presentations, after which people mobilised and mingled in local groups to discuss how to enable local energy group start ups, indicating that there is a definite hunger for future community energy initiatives in London and across the UK. We look forward to seeing how this exciting sector develops in the coming months and years.
We’re hugely grateful to HUB Islington and its wonderful hosts for hosting the first HUB Eco Series event and look forward to announcing the second event in due course.
For regular HUB Eco Series updates follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Contact the coordinators any time via [email protected].