Residents are coming together to buy solar panels in bulk, making savings on the equipment and installation costs. Community Renewable Energy Wandsworth (CREW), a volunteer group of local residents, has launched a campaign, called CREW Solar, to offer discounted roof-top solar panels in Wandsworth and Merton.
CREW has teamed up with Social Power Partnerships (SPP), a leading UK renewable energy developer, to offer roof-top solar panels to the community at a reduced rate.
By pooling together a number of residents in the same area, CREW has driven down both the equipment and installation costs. By joining this collective purchasing scheme, residents can save as much as 50% on the solar panels installations.
A typical solar power system on a house can earn the homeowner £300 in Government subsidies and energy bill savings each year. The panels would pay for themselves in as little as 8 years. CREW will receive £100 from SPP for every installed system for its community fund. This money will be used to help schools and charities in the area. Residents have until July 20th to join the scheme.
For more information, or to register your interest, go to our CREW Solar page or email CREW directly on email@example.com.
Justin and Maureen collaborating in the sunshine
We are excited that the installation of efficient lighting bulbs in the Doddington & Rollo Business and Community Centre is developing well. We expect to install the new bulbs during the summer and hope to have this done by (environment fortnight) and begin to show savings in energy use and costs immediately. This is a positive move forward for the business and community centre.
The latest development to celebrate in this project is the possibility that we can fundraise with D&R to refit the public areas of the whole building with efficiency sensors cutting power use even further and making more savings in the bills.
We take the opportunity to work the sunshine whenever we can. Otherwise we have to work without natural light underground in the business centre. Transforming sunlight into electricity for the centre would be ideal but in the meantime we are enjoying the real thing.
Since January 2016 when dramatic cuts to renewable energy subsidies, knows as FiTs (Feed-in Tariff), were enacted the UK solar industry has been hard hit. Multiple solar installation companies have gone into administration as demand has reduced. The tariff cut has meant that the high up-front costs of installing solar are no longer easily off-set by selling electricity back into the grid over the life of the panels.
The Guardian has covered the decimation of the industry in this recent article.
What this means for CREW and other community energy groups like us, is that solar projects have become far less financially viable, especially in a city like London, where land availability and air pollution already reduced the generative capacity of solar panels compared to rural projects.
CREW is no longer able to offer solar projects in the same guise, as the guaranteed opportunity to earn back enough money from the panels to pay interest back to banks, community shareholders is no longer assured.
Luckily this doesn’t stop us from doing solar projects. However, we are adapting our business models and financing approaches to ensure we can launch financially viable and environmentally effective projects, ensuring that all community shareholders are paid a fair rate of return on investment.
This week Tim, Toby and James met with the team at Battersea Arts Centre to discuss partnership opportunities to further improve the environmental performance of one of the borough’s most iconic buildings.
Battersea Arts Centre puts on over 650 performances a year across a range of performing arts, and is a key Battersea community hub inspiring more than 5000 young people a year to explore their creative side.
Originally built in 1893 as Battersea Town Hall, the BAC team have just completed the first phase of a major refurbishment installing multiple energy efficiency measures such as cavity-wall insulation and LED lights. We are now discussing how CREW can help supply the technical expertise and funding capability to match BAC’s ambition to be a shining example of environmentally friendly practice in Wandsworth.
Watch this space for more updates as discussions progress.
CREW discovered this week that we just missed the cut for shortlisting for the M&S Community Fund. Begun in 2015, Marks and Spencer run a national competition offering grants to community energy projects across 20+ regions of the UK. Customers and members of the public vote for their favourite shortlisted regional projects who receive grants of up to £12,500 towards community energy initiatives.
The opportunity to use a big grant to good use encouraged CREW to reach out to new community partners to collaborate for the competition. This has kicked off initial discussions with Putney Arts Theatre to identify what energy generation and efficiency measures could help transform their building’s environmental performance.
Unfortunately, the M&S Community Energy Fund required match funding before any project could be shortlisted. No doubt, CREW will return next year to apply. In the meantime, we are very excited to be exploring opportunities for collaboration with Putney Arts Theatre. Watch this space for updates in the coming months.
In the meantime, take a look at some of the fantastic competition winners from the M&S Community Energy Fund in 2015.
CREW and Doddington & Rolo Community Association (DRCA) are working together on an exciting energy efficiency project. The DRCA are a community venue and small business workshop host in Battersea. We have agreed to fund and help install 570 LED light bulbs across the community centre and its network of small business workshops. The superior energy efficiency of LED bulbs over traditional light bulbs will help DRCA save more than 70% on their annual lighting energy bills!
At the moment CREW are in the process of applying for funding to start the project and developing a legal agreement that will ensure the continued success of the project (and carbon emission savings) over the next 5 years.
We hope to share more with you later in the summer.
We are delighted to announce that CREW member and long-time advocate Leonie Cooper has been elected to the London Assembly!
Leonie will represent Merton and Wandsworth at the Greater London Assembly, winning her seat by over 4,000 votes. Among other responsibilities, Leonie will champion environmental issues in the Assembly as Chair of the Environmental Committee.
We want to congratulate Leonie on a momentous win, and wish her luck with the next 4 years representing SW London on behalf of all its residents.
Big decisions were made at last night’s CREW team meeting. In response to the Government’s decision to devastate the solar industry, we’re going to set up as an Energy Services Company (ESCO). This allows CREW to continue to work with community partners on a range of different renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, without only being confined to solar projects.
To kick off this new phase for CREW, we want to bring an LED light revolution to Wandsworth. We’re looking for community partners – schools, community centres, housing associations, businesses – who would like to save up to 90% on their lighting bills.
By switching standard lightbulbs for LED lights, it is possible to save up to 90% of the energy used in lighting a building. This not only saves a lot money, but also dramatically reduces the amount of energy usage too – reducing carbon emissions. We will provide the up-front money and expertise to install the lights, and then you pay us back over time from the savings on your energy bills.
If you would like to find out more, email crew at: firstname.lastname@example.org
To reflect these exciting changes CREW is redrafting the constitution, re-energising the working groups and refreshing the website. We’ll also be pushing ahead with legally registering our group. This will enable us to enter into contractual relationships with community partners to bring LED lights to Wandsworth. If you’re keen to join the group of CREW’s volunteers or offer your expertise and support, then please email us to find out about our next meeting.
Last weekend several members of the CREW team attended the Community Energy Conference 2015. Unsurprisingly the FiTs reduction dominated discussions, but CREW left with plenty of optimism too.
Hosted by Community Energy England and Co-operative Energy, the conference was an opportunity for over 50 different groups and co-ops to come together to discuss the state of the sector and opportunities for innovation.
There was a lot of fear and anger in the conference hall as many community groups described the severe impact the rapid FiTs reduction would have on planned projects. The discussion helped draw into sharp focus both how successful FiTs has been in generating a pipeline of hundreds of project across the country (which is the reason given by Government for ending it sooner); and how devastating the announcement will be as group after group explained that they were expecting to ditch their pipeline of forthcoming renewable energy projects because of the cuts.
Among the many interesting talks and useful skills sharing workshops, one of the topics that sparked CREW’s interest was that of Energy Services Companies (ESCOs). ESCOs are a commercial or non-profit business providing a broad range of energy solutions including designs and implementation of energy savings projects, retrofitting, energy conservation, energy infrastructure outsourcing, power generation and energy supply.
A couple of community energy groups have set up ESCOs to deliver energy saving projects in schools and community groups in their local area. These have been primarily focused on replacing all traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs which use on average only 10% of the energy of traditional halogen bulbs and are still more efficient than most energy-saving bulbs currently in circulation.*
One successful example of this is Wey Valley Solar who is on track to help a local primary school in Harmondsworth, near Heathrow, up to 60% on their energy bills following the completion of re-fitting the school with LED lights.
This could be an interesting first step for CREW to start working with local community organisations across the borough while we wait and see what happens to viability of traditional solar projects.
CREW walked away from the conference with a strong sense that whatever happens in the face of current challenges, the creativity and commitment of community energy groups throughout the UK will find a way to bring real benefits of renewable energy to local communities. CREW is equally committed to making this happen for Wandsworth.
On the 27th August the Government announced plans to slash the Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) subsidy which supports making solar power projects in the UK financially viable. As a result CREW has paused any further project action until the full repercussions of this announcement are known.
The cuts amount to an 87% overnight reduction in the subsidy solar power owners receive for the energy they sell back to the gird.
“From 1 January, ministers are proposing reducing the feed-in tariff for smaller scale solar installations from 12.47p per kilowatt hour to 1.63p with large standalone units eligible for subsidies of 1.03p per kWh, compared with 4.28p today”.*
Community solar energy projects rely on FiTs to pay back community shareholders over the life of the solar panels. The FiTs scheme provides a guarantee for community groups like CREW to develop robust financial models that work out the rate of return to pay back investors, and how much money we can contribute to a community benefit fund.
Everyone in the solar industry has been expecting a phased reduction over time in the level of subsidy available. That is the whole point of a subsidy regime – to support fledgling technologies and industries as they develop to the point where they can complete commercially independent of government support.
This announcement is far more severe than anyone was expecting and undermines the viability of all future solar projects in the UK.
CREW are committed to providing renewable energy to the people of Wandsworth. This month we were just about to register with the Financial Conduct Authority as a Community Benefit Society to provide additional reassurance to the community by legalising our structures to operate community share offers.
Until now the plan has been to use any additional financial proceeds gained through solar power generation to channel into further sustainable energy initiatives, discussed and decided by Wandsworth citizens.
We will watch events closely and no doubt adjust our actions to keep doing whatever work we can in the borough.