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  • Writer's pictureDonna Butler

Repowering: Providing communities with clean, local energy

Since 2011, Repowering has empowered communities to fund, install and manage their own clean, local energy.

Climate change has started conversations about how we produce the energy that we consume. Traditionally, the burning of non-renewable fossil fuels and nuclear fission have been how we generate electricity. The technology that generates electricity using renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydro are available but at a higher initial cost due to the installation of infrastructure.

In 2011 Repowering was founded as a non-profit intermediary co-operative in Brixton, south London with a team of staff and volunteers. Their aim was to empower communities in London to take control of how the energy they consume is generated, rather than having to rely on the privately owned power companies supply of electricity from a mixture of sources, alongside programmes of education and training.

The charity enables poorer communities to benefit from discounted electricity as well as ensuring renters are able to make ethical choices in relation to their energy supplies.

Solar panels and the infrastructure required are now cheaper to install than when they were first introduced for domestic use, however it is often only possibly for home owners to install them as landlords can be reluctant to install the technology. Barriers to access renewable energy are also faced by people who own flats and apartments within blocks.

Repowering is funded through The People’s Postcode Lottery and private investors looking for ethical or ‘green’ investment opportunities. The charity has completed 6 projects to date which have seen them partner with energy companies, universities and the Greater London Authority in implementing trials across London.

The financial model that is used is simple and takes advantage of live government subsidies such as the FIT scheme which have been introduced to encourage the move towards renewable electricity.

The funds invested are used to install the photovoltaic panels (PVP) and associated infrastructure, the electricity created is sold to the community at a 10% discount and excess energy is sold back to the grid which generates a guaranteed income of 5.24p per unit which is subsidised by the government in line with whichever scheme the project subscribes to.

The profits made are shared between all stakeholders; investors receive an average return of 3%, administration costs for daily operation of the cooperation are deducted and the remaining monies are added to the community fund.

The community fund enables Repowering to offer education opportunities in many ways such as advocacy for renewable energy, support with fuel poverty and accredited training in line with AQA (Assessment and Qualification Alliance) for subjects including ‘Low carbon & renewable technologies’ and ‘Solar system design’ as well as CV writing and teamwork skills. The Primary School Programme introduces young children to the topic of climate change in line with the National Curriculum.

The initial project in 2011 was the three phased Brixton Energy Solar Project. Two housing estates in Brixton had 132kWp capacity PVP installed saving fifty one tonnes of CO2 emissions. As well as the community benefitting from a reduced cost of electricity supply the project also created 13 paid internships and raised £183,500 for community funds. The 254 investors are also seeing healthy returns.

Repowering is ensuring that no one is left behind in the switch from fossil fuels to renewables within our homes by creating quality, relevant jobs, supporting and reducing fuel poverty experienced by poorer communities and enhancing energy services at a local level.

By Donna Butler ©


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