When I first joined Repowering London in November of 2014 one of my first tasks was to fit energy monitors on some of the communal meters at Vauxhall Gardens, a large estate in south London. The purpose of this was to understand how much energy was being used in the building and at what times of the day, so we could predict what level of consumption there would likely be from the anticipated solar panel installations.
Over the next couple of years I grew into new role within the community energy sector becoming involved in areas as diverse as community engagement, youth education, writing planning applications, financial modelling, technical drawings & wire diagrams as well as online and face to face marketing among others.
This is the romantic thing about community energy, it is truly a platform for giving people new opportunities to grow, learn skills and broaden their horizons. In this world of rapid of change sometimes people get left behind, unfortunately these groups tend to be the already neglected or marginalised. Having been a part of the Banister House project in Hackney I saw how the community was rallied around a collective purpose, amidst issues such as youth violence and government budget cuts.
Community energy aims to bring people together and invigorate them and the community with collective responsibility and decision making, in ways which the traditional social, energy and government infrastructures do not.
Through installing solar panels on the roofs of council owned buildings green energy can be produced and fed into the electricity supply. By turning housing, schools and other public buildings in their portfolio into energy generators, Local Authorities can massively increase their renewable energy quotas as well as bring people into the discussions on such issues, likely to help address their needs better as well as looking at fuel poverty in homes and energy efficiency across the board.
Vauxhall Energy is a project born in and from the community. Among the board of directors are residents and local businesses. Local young people have gone through the internship program and all residents on the estate have had their concerns heard and addressed. The project is not only about producing more sustainable energy systems, but more sustainable and resilient communities.
By installing 65 kWp across 5 blocks a massive 1059 MWh will be produced over the 20 years of the project. In line with government tariffs on renewable energy and also through Power Purchase Agreements created with Lambeth Council there will be income generated for the co-operative through producing the energy and selling it to the council or back to the grid.
This revenue will produce a ring fenced community fund of £15,000 over the 20 year project, as well as paying back the investors.
Which brings us to the next point… if you like what you have read so far or have read about other community energy projects but missed the boat in the past, let me explain about the share offer which is offered to all members of the public and beyond.
To raise the capital to physically have the solar system installed, a share offer is made whereby residents of the Vauxhall Gardens Estate are given the option to buy shares for £50, and members of the greater public can get involved for a larger fee of £250. This will provide a 3% return annually over the 20 years and will contribute towards environmental and social benefits within the community.
In a time where Britain’s renewable incentives and commitments seem to be falling, it is important that we, the people, demonstrate to ourselves and the world that we stand for equality for the planet and it’s people.
The public share offer is now live, so check out how you can invest, whether you live locally or not.