Reflections on a CREW energy cafe
Last month, we gave a behind-the-scenes intro to our energy cafes. But what does it mean to our volunteers? Here’s a first-hand account from CREW Energy Adviser, Maureen
PLUGGING INTO ELECTRIC VEHICLES
Electric vehicles have become an important part of both the fight against air pollution and the move to a low-carbon economy, which is essential for reducing the effects of climate change. EVs aim to replace road vehicles, which use internal combustion engines (ICEs), by instead charging a battery which then delivers power to the motor
Introduction to a CREW energy cafe
Our energy cafes aim to help people get more value for their energy spend. They are run by volunteers trained in giving energy advice and the concept was part of CREW’s very raison d’être.
July was a big month for the community energy sphere, with Community Energy Fortnight (22 June - 7 July) and London’s very first Climate Action Week (1-7 July).
Throughout the two-week period, CREW members darted from event to event telling Londoners about our ongoing projects and hearing updates from our fellow community energy groups. In particular, we spoke about our LED lighting project at the Community Energy Annual Conference and attended the London Climate Action Week launch.
We took the opportunity to spread the word on social media but, in case you missed it, below are our reflections on London’s first celebration of climate action.
Sadiq Khan invited a range of organisations working hard to make London a greener, more sustainable city to the launch event of London’s first ever Climate Action Week. Following the Mayor’s declaration of a climate emergency earlier this year, Londoners have been encouraged to attend one of the hundreds of events around the capital to learn more and take action at a community level to tackle climate change.
CREW Energy attended the reception at the London Living Room in City Hall to hear both HRH Prince Charles and Sadiq Khan make impassioned speeches to move beyond the rhetoric and start taking meaningful action on climate. This was followed by interesting panel discussions from a range of climate activities and sustainability champions on how to lead change at a community, city and national level. We left feeling both inspired and informed, with greater conviction that CREW Energy can play a meaningful role in helping London become the world’s greenest, cleanest, low carbon city.
We've decided to re-brand with a new logo, name and slogan for 2019. "Community Renewable Energy Wandsworth (CREW)" will no longer be the name for the cooperative. As we've developed, both in our internal capability and in response to wider trends in the renewable energy industry, we've developed a capability beyond just installing renewable energy.
We are the first community energy group in London to complete an LED replacement project under a lighting services agreement. We offer a range of technological solutions to help community groups, businesses and home owners save energy and become more efficient. We are also launching a series of energy cafes throughout 2019 to help people reduce their energy bills, make their homes more efficient and lift out of fuel poverty.
Therefore we've decided to drop the acronym from our name and simply become "CREW". This reflects both that we offer more than just renewable energy services, and that we are also not confined just to Wandsworth, but want to work with partner organisations all across south-west London.
So from 2019 we are CREW. With a fantastic new logo thanks to a friend of the group and a new slogan - "Clean Energy - Community Power'; we look forward to going on a journey together to achieve more across a wider swathe of London.
We hope you like the new brand!
In December 2018 CREW were awarded £12,500 by the GLA's London Community Energy Fund (Phase 2) to develop our latest LED and BMS project with Devas Club.
CREW were one of 18 community energy projects that have been awarded a total of £182,000 in this second phase of the London Community Energy Fund, covering projects across 13 different London boroughs. The successful proposals include developing solar projects in time to still benefit from the Feed-in tariff (due to end in April 2019), installing electric vehicle charging points, adding battery storage to solar PV panels or even developing a community off-grid hybrid renewable system.
CREW will now be working closely with the Devas Club to transform the energy performance of the building by summer 2019
CREW have joined up with Devas Club for our next project. CREW will be helping Devas to become a more sustainable centre, saving money on their energy bills and carbon emissions. We will replace all of their lighting to LEDs, similar to our DRCA project, and also instal a Building Management System (BMS) to help manage the energy performance of the centre.
As per our standard offering, we will manage the project from start to finish, providing technical scoping and design, financing and installation support. CREW will be working with Devas to find the most cost effective way of completing the works, with payment made through the savings on future energy bills.
Devas Club is a Battersea institution, serving young people and the community since 1970. They offer a range of services including a dance studio, a recording studio and a silk-screen workshop. The main floor also houses several social areas, a computer suite, table tennis hall and an art room. The upper levels provide a large gym with weights room, and several meeting and rehearsal rooms. There is an enclosed Basketball court on the roof.
By integrating into the broader community young people feel part of that community. A Community Café is run on two weekdays and local groups regularly hire space.
Solar's hotting up
Last weekend saw the UK's solar output surpass all other forms of power generation, equivalent to almost 28% of supply by lunchtime on Sunday.
Data from the government and National Grid-backed Sheffield Solar PV_Live Project shows how renewable energy has become a consistently high contributor to the UK's energy mix throughout 2018.
Have you considered installing solar PV on your household, business or community organisation?
CREW Solar is a group purchasing scheme which gives homeowners the opportunity to install a solar PV system at a discount. Find out more here.
Meanwhile, if you're interested in how CREW can help your organisation generate low cost renewable energy and a range of other measures for saving money, take a look at what services we offer.
The sixth community energy fortnight kicks off today (23rd June – 8th July). A celebration of communities who are sharing their resources, generating renewable energy and wasting less - embracing technologies as diverse as solar-PV arrays, wind turbines, hydro-electricity and biomass heat.
The Community Energy Fortnight is run by Community Energy England on behalf of the Community Energy Coalition. This year there is a great range of events being organised in London by Community Energy London.
Check out the events below:
Thursday 28th June, 5.30-8.50pm at City Hall, London.
Please register for your ticket here
This year the theme of Community Energy Fortnight is ‘energising communities’ and we’re taking this opportunity to rally together to inspire new and exisiting practitioners to come forward and engage with community energy.
Last year’s conference saw the release of the sector report for London, ‘Realising the Potential’, which examined barriers to the sector and opportunities moving forward. ‘Energising Communities’ is the next step; through a series of talks and panel discussions, CEL will explore what ‘moving forward’ looks like for London in practical terms.
This includes engaging with new stakeholders both across the sectors and within existing communities. CEL appreciates that ‘community energy’ goes far beyond solar – even in urban environments. We recognise that it is not just about energy technologies, efficiency or even fuel poverty; The key strengths of community energy are both our ability to raise awareness of energy issues, as well as to engage and empower the people that make up the many different communities across our city.
London may be at the bottom of the renewable energy and low carbon league tables today, but within our sector there is the knowledge and vision to help develop a London that leads the way and inspires other cities across the world.
Registration is at 5.30pm with speakers starting at 6pm. There will be time for networking from 8pm.
‘The Age of Stupid: film screening and panel discussion
Tuesday 3rd July, 6.30pm – 8.45pm
The Rio Cinema in Hackney will host the CEL screening of ‘The Age of Stupid’ to help raise funds for its rooftop solar project in connection with Hackney Energy.
Community Energy isn’t all about solar panels, financial models and draft excluders. It’s a varied and innovative space, which is fast becoming a more regular feature of our landscape, found in schools, housing co-ops, gardens, businesses, train stations and places of worship, to name a few.
The Age of Stupid stars Pete Postlethwaite, a future archivist looking at old footage from the year 2008 to understand why humankind failed to address climate change. Sadly this film is still hugely relevant – nowhere more so than in such a fast-paced consumerist city such as London.
The screening will take place at Rio cinema in Dalston, on Tuesday 3rd July at 6.00pm, followed by a discussion panel made up of London community energy practitioners and campaign groups who will explore the realities and future of community energy in London.
The Rio cinema is currently in talks with CEL member group, Hackney Energy, to explore the cinema’s potential to generate rooftop solar.
Tickets are £5, available through the Rio Cinema website and all sales will go towards feasibility studies for this project.
Community energy advice – Open Space!
Thursday 5th July, 6pm – 9pm at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, University of London
Please register for your ticket here
An informal advice session for experienced practitioners and energy newbies alike. This is a welcoming space, which offers the chance to have questions discussed by community energy guides, over food and drink. We might not always know the answer, but we usually know someone who will!
Whether you just want to learn about your local community energy group, start one of your own or find out how your existing group can scale up its operations, this is the place for you!
CREW and Battersea Arts Centre win joint funding from the Mayor’s London Community Energy Fund.
CREW and Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) have been awarded up to £15,000 funding to generate solar power in one of Wandsworth’s most iconic venues.
CREW and BAC are targeting to meet over 50% of the venue’s demand through the installation of solar panels, while exploring further opportunities to improve the building’s sustainability including the inclusion of battery storage to serve the venue’s key demand periods during night time performances.
BAC welcomes over 100,000 people to its building every year to enjoy a wide and varied programme of over 650 shows. Furthermore, it plays a vital role in the local community, working with 5000 young people each year to stimulate creativity and interest in the arts.
Throughout the BAC’s extensive renovation programme they are endeavouring to make this Grade II listed building as sustainable as possible. Following the success of CREW’s first project with the Doddington and Rollo Community Association to retrofit LED lights and sensors through the building, this funding provides a fantastic opportunity to further improve the sustainability of another of Battersea’s community hubs.
The funding allows CREW to plan and deliver a project alongside BAC, however the cost of the actual installation is not included. For the moment, the two organisations are working together to assess the building needs, discuss plans with English Heritage and develop a financial model for the duration of the solar panel life span.
If you would like more information please contact: email@example.com
For more information on BAC: https://www.bac.org.uk/
For more information on the Mayor’s Community Energy Fund winners: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayor-of-london-to-boost-clean-solar-energy
Energy Champions Training
At our installation launch we heard from Alex Hartley who told us about the Energy Café run in Lewisham. This amazing project is something we’d like to copy and run in Battersea and Alex had a course to help us to do this. It would take 21 hours working together to learn how to help our neighbours – and ourselves – to get out of fuel debt and to get the best deal for our energy money.
We were excited and enthused by the success of the lighting installation at the Doddington & Rollo Business and Community Centre. Now we would cascade the benefits into the neighbourhood.
Just before Christmas 2017 we began. We learned so much in our first day together. For some of us the experiences we were dealing with were very near to home. For others the course was a revelation. It certainly was fun and Hadas Hagos brought refreshments from the ‘Waste Not Want Not Project’ that she runs locally to fuel our learning!
There is a lot of information to take on board. Not all of it is technical. In fact a lot of the work of an Energy Champion is to communicate with people who have serious issues with stretching their budgets to cover their fuel costs. Dealing with debt and taking back control is not instant and it is a skill that takes trust, knowledge, resources and an open mind to achieve.
We each got a low energy use LED bulb at the end of the session and shared our top tips for energy savings. I liked ‘switch off the energy vampires’, all those devices and pieces of equipment that sit quietly sucking up the electricity in the background of our technological lives.
We're offering free training to help you, and your community, save money and bring down your energy costs.
Our latest project, Community Energy Champions, is looking to train volunteers who'll then assist their friends and neighbours in saving money on their energy costs.
The FREE course is over six workshops, each three and a half hours long, scheduled for when is convenient for you.
Run by South East London Community Energy, it'll cover topics including:
If you are interested, or just want to find out more, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Friday our community energy project at the Doddington and Rollo Community Association (DRCA) was officially launched by Marsha de Cordova the MP for Battersea.
The event was hosted by Leonie Cooper, London Assembly Member for Wandsworth and Merton (and member of CREW) and we welcomed guest speaker Alex Hartley from South East London Community Energy (SELCE).
The project replaced all the existing lighting at the DRCA with highly efficient LED bulbs that are controlled by motion sensors. Most of rooms in the DRCA receive no natural light hence the lights need to be on at all times of day. This leads to very high electricity bills. Our project is saving the DRCA £1000 per month.
CREW worked with Pure Leapfrog to raise the capital for the project, taking out a 0% interest loan, which will be paid back over 10-years using a portion of the money saved each month by DRCA.
This is the first example of a community energy project in London using an energy services agreement, and will hopefully be a model that can be replicated across the whole of London.
A portion of the money saved by the project will go into a community fund to be spent on social and environmental initiatives in Doddington & Rollo and the surrounding area
This year we will use this money to fund a series of workshops on the Doddington & Rollo estate focused on tackling fuel poverty. These workshops will train volunteers on how to help local people understand the simple changes they can make to reduce their energy bills, for example, switching to different energy tariffs and reducing unnecessary energy usage.
This “train the trainer” model of working with local volunteers to provide energy advice to their fellow residents shares the knowledge with the community creating a long term solution for helping with fuel poverty.
This is our first project, and we’re incredibly proud of it. This is the first step towards completing our vision of bring community energy to Wandsworth.
To celebrate the completion of our first community energy project at the Doddington and Rollo Community Association (DRCA) CREW are hosting a press event to officially launch the project on Friday 22nd September.
CREW has partnered with DRCA to help reduce utility bills at the Community Centre by installing energy efficient lighting and in turn raise funds for workshops to tackle fuel poverty for the local residents.
DRCA Community Centre has very little natural light but needs to provide lighting 24/7, resulting in very high utility bills. Replacing their existing fluorescent light bulbs with highly efficient LED bulbs controlled by motion sensors will save DRCA over £1000 per month on electricity.
The event will be opened by Leonie Cooper London Assembly Member for Wandsworth and Merton with guest speaker Marsha de Cordova, MP for Battersea.
Friday 22nd September
DRCA Business Centre, Charlotte Despard Avenue, Battersea, London, SW11 5JE
If you would like to attend please register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/crew-drca-community-energy-project-launch-tickets-37704027762?utm_term=eventurl_text
About the Project
The DRCA provides facilities for local business, charities and community groups. The Community Centre has very little natural light and requires the lights to be on 24/7, resulting in very high electricity bills. The aim of the project was to replace the existing inefficient fluorescent light bulbs with highly efficient LED bulbs, that are controlled by motion sensors. This will save DRCA over £1000 per month. A portion of the money saved will be donated to a community fund that will pay for workshops aimed at tackling fuel poverty for low income families in the local area.
CREW worked with Pure Leapfrog to raise the capital for the project. CREW took out a loan from the British Airways Carbon Fund, which will be paid back over the 10-year lifetime of the project using portion of the money saved each month by DRCA.
The project would not have been possible without the help of Social Power Partnerships who performed all aspects of the installation, and Simmons and Simmons solicitors who provided pro-bono legal advice on the contracts.
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.
New Opportunities with CREW
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.
The clouds gather over the solar industry as half of all industry jobs are cut in 2016
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.
Doddington and Rolo Update
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.
January 15th, 2016
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.
Community energy conference
Members of CREW and Furzedown Low Carbon Zone who attended the Community Energy Conference in Oxford on Saturday
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