Community-based energy projects are on the rise, allowing people to take back control over their energy. Rising costs and the demand for renewable sources has resulted in this new wave of local energy becoming more popular, and the future will likely see it continue to gain traction. Most of these projects empower communities in two areas; where they get their energy from, and how much they pay for it.
But what if these projects could do better? What if these projects didn’t just stop at energy production, but could be used to drive social change?
This is where Repowering London comes in.
Repowering London is a non-profit organisation that facilitates the co-production of community-owned renewable energy projects. It uses a grassroots approach to solve energy problems by assisting the local community in identifying how energy can be improved in their area, and gives them the tools to fix it.
Energy advancements are one thing, but it’s the social impact of Repowering’s work that sets it apart. Every project encourages community engagement, teaches new skills and provides a paid training programme in inner-city areas often overlooked for regeneration ventures. They have taken all the positives of regular energy generation projects and combined them with educational and collaborative initiatives, creating a movement that has a major influence on every community it touches.
What Repowering London excels at is putting each community at the heart of the project. They start by immersing themselves within the local community by attending local events and joining existing groups to gain a real understanding of the community. Weekly meetings are held to facilitate discussion and provide guidance, allowing residents to take ownership of the project themselves. A 40-week paid internship programme for young people is run with the goal of engaging and including people who would not normally participate in such schemes. The whole process orientates itself around the concept of empowering the local community to identify and solve a problem impacting them all.
Local residents are given the opportunity to invest in each project, with investments starting from only £50. Each investor is entitled to one vote, regardless of the number of shares they hold, on any decisions undertaken by the resulting community fund. A portion of all returns from the energy production are put back into the community through improving energy efficiency and providing working opportunities for young people.
CEO Agememnon Otero puts the success of the movement down to their focus on working ‘with individual communities around very specific needs and through consensus come up with solutions’. By allowing the communities themselves to lead discussions, generate ideas and run the energy generation it creates an ownership element that many other similar projects lack. So far, 5 projects have been completed in inner-city areas in London with many more in the pipeline. Check these out here.
Repowering London has shown the difference that can be made in a community through energy generation. It shows that a movement focusing primarily on reducing environmental impact and energy costs can also drive community engagement, educate and employ young people, while fostering skills that can be taken into the wider world.
It appears renewable energy can do more than just protect the environment. It can also drive social change.
About the author
Alex Baker is a researcher at WMC covering areas relating to climate change and economic development. He is an Economics Graduate currently working and travelling throughout Europe and Asia.
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