Repowering London’s Community Solar Director is bringing his artistic flair to our most ambitious project to date
Dave Fuller (pictured above, centre) came to Repowering London “after a bit of bouncing about,” he says. After a number of years working as a self-employed composer he found himself feeling there might be a different road forward and taking some time to think about what he might want to change going into the next phase of his life.
“I’ve worked at Abbey Road Studios, I’ve worked with big orchestras – and I generally have some really good memories,” he says of his time in the music industry. However, around 2017 he “came to the conclusion that [he] was no longer getting enough joy from the music industry.”
Dave had already been doing “bits of climate activism” and charity work around climate change. The experience helped him realise that he wasn’t cut out to be a hard-core campaigner or front-line worker, but he still felt he could make a difference and was determined to find the right role. That’s when a talk about community energy caught his attention. This led him to Hackney Energy – the group behind Repowering London’s solar installation at Banister House. Dave had spent a few months as a volunteer promoting the Banister House community share offer when a job came up at Repowering London. Dave applied and met with CEO Afsheen Kabir Rashid. He didn’t get that job – but he liked the organisation and within a few months was offered a position as a part-time Project Support Officer.
Since then, that junior role has grown enormously. As Community Solar Director, Dave now oversees Repowering London’s rooftop solar programme – which will shortly extend to nine co-operatives. “My primary task,” he says, “is to develop new solar projects and ensure that our existing ones continue to work. When I started, this meant going out and talking about the benefits of solar. Then we developed North Kensington Community Energy and it was about helping shape a project and seeing where the volunteers would take it – seeing what community energy looks like and what a community looks like.”
Setting the scene
For Dave, that community piece is the most important element of what Repowering London offers. As he explains: “We want people to see they can enable change in their local area. In the end we want local people to think: ‘If I can become a Director in this project then what else can I do? Maybe I can set up a charity or become an MP’.”
With its work with young people, he says, there is an even broader objective: “We are encouraging them to see that there is a future, that there are people – alongside their parents, families and perhaps their teachers – who care about them. And if there are these people there must be other people like that in the world … It is all of these little steps towards positivity and sharing.”
“We are encouraging people who invest in our projects to think of themselves as being active in making positive change against climate change.”
He thinks that his background as an artist helps with the mission: “What a great piece of music does is change people’s emotional states. That’s what we’re trying to do at Repowering London but in a very different way. I think that my experience in being creative and finding a message and sharing it helps Repowering London get to the people we want to reach.”
“We are, in lots of ways, in the game of behaviour change and that is the only thing that is going to save us from climate change,” he continues. “By creating solar projects and with our wider decarbonisation work we are showing that it’s possible to do something about climate change that has both a local and global impact. We are encouraging people who invest in our projects to think of themselves as being active in making positive change against climate change.”
On the subject of change, Repowering London is not immune. It has adapted its project-building template to take on new circumstances. For instance, a key government subsidy, the Feed-in Tariff, has come to an end leaving a gap in the way that our co-operatives can fund themselves. “We’ve had to find another way of doing it,” says Dave, and the only other way we could find was economies of scale.”
Dave has now developed Repowering Communities, a fast-track funding model that will be the linchpin of a five-year rooftop solar strategy through which Repowering London aims to create 5MW of renewable energy generation in London – enough to power 2,000 homes.
Though it will aim to involve communities in which there are already Repowering London co-ops, Repowering Communities also gives the opportunity for other Community Energy organisations to benefit from cheaper solar installation.
It is, says Dave with some understatement, “something big, which is quite exciting”. But he’s no stranger to keeping a lot of plates spinning at once: “My last job in music was managing a department that put together about 100 albums a year. Now I’m managing a number of projects that all want to get to the same point – to get solar on the roofs of buildings – and it is also about how good you are at moving things along.”
As part of creating Repowering Communities, Repowering London has interacted with new players in the financial world and is hoping to persuade companies that wouldn’t normally fund this kind of work to do so. This could be through loans or donation and perhaps to fit in with their corporate and social responsibility targets. It is looking at commercial lenders as well as responsible businesses that want to be involved as corporate partners to create meaningful change.
It is, admits Dave, a very different proposition than the type of fundraising he would have done for Banister House. “But in the end,” he reflects, “what we want to do is the same thing we wanted to do with Brixton Energy Solar 1, Repowering London’s first project. That is to get people together, show it is possible to make positive change around renewables – and then have a long-tail community benefit that comes from creating a Community Fund.
“For me that is a really important message: we don’t want to install solar panels if we can’t create community benefit. We want things to be community owned and we want to encourage people to come together and create change. Our call to action now: join us for the next phase.”