Thanks to rising concerns over high energy costs, Community Energy is having a major moment. But how does it work and why do need it? And how is Repowering London turning up the heat on an established renewable energy model?
“The solution to our energy crisis or even the climate crisis is not just more renewable power. It isn’t more nuclear power. It is more people power. It is about you …”
Those were the powerful words of Repowering London CEO Felix Wight when he addressed a TedX audience in London in October 2022. Felix was on stage to make the case that Community Energy (CE) can be the cornerstone of a fairer, greener energy future. But just what is CE?
What is Community Energy?
In short, Community Energy refers to a variety of schemes that all involve the generation, storage, efficiency or demand-reduction of renewable energy – for example, energy generated via wind and solar power – and are lead by community members to benefit a local area.
Community Energy is now responsible for generating 506 GWh of electricity in England, Scotland and Wales, thanks to the work of 495 Community Energy organisations, according to the most recent State of the Sector report on CE. Of the total UK electricity capacity, just over 200 MW is attributed to solar installations.
So far, Repowering London has helped to grow eight Community energy groups across London and installed 707 kWp of rooftop solar capacity.
The Repowering London difference
While we sit within the Community Energy sector, the aim at Repowering London isn’t just to deliver kilowatt hours. We are committed to Creating Local Energy – which means our projects are firmly rooted in local networks, bring neighbours together to build closer connections and generate the social energy that creates opportunities for communities to flourish. Our unique programme incorporates social, financial and educational opportunities, including avenues for young people to enter Green industries. You can read more about our model here.
Why do we need CE?
But why do we need Community Energy at all? To be blunt, it’s because the main way that energy is generated, provided and sold to us isn’t working. It isn’t working for hard-pressed urban communities that are facing sky-rocketing energy bills. Or for our environment, which is being destroyed by our continued use of fossil-fuels to power our cities.
Locally-owned and decentralised renewable energy offers an inspiring opportunity not just to provide fair and affordable access to energy for everyone, but to tackle the climate emergency, create communities full of empowered citizens, and to drive the journey to a low-carbon future.
There are, of course, obstacles to this future. That’s why Repowering London is part of a coalition backing a Local Electricity Bill, which would allow community-owned renewable energy to live up to its promise. The Bill would mean that local Community Energy projects would be able to sell the power they make directly to local people to give them the greatest benefit.
Raising our game
But while campaigning for policy reform is one way forward. Repowering London isn’t sitting back and waiting for it. Instead, we’re ramping up our own efforts and creating new pathways for solar expansion.
Our ambitious goal: to deliver 5MW of community energy over the next five years using our proven, community-based model. The work has already begun. Our solar pipeline already includes up to 3MW of capacity across a number of prospective sites. We’ll be talking more about how you can help make this happen over the coming months.
CE needs you
Meanwhile, although research shows that the CE sector is adding new full-time jobs, volunteer support is still keeping some 70% of the sector going. This means it is harder to get projects off the ground, stopping CE from reaching its full potential. So, CE needs you. And we hope this article has inspired you to step up and get involved.