Q. What is CREW Energy?
A. CREW Energy is a Wandsworth based voluntary group that promotes and implements renewable energy and sustainability projects for the benefit of communities. Our aim is to work in partnership with community groups, local institutions and businesses to help them save energy. We put together a financed package to deliver a scheme that achieves significant energy savings and brings related benefits to the community such as employment and training. CREW Energy is motivated by the opportunity to increase public understanding of the accessible opportunities renewable energy and sustainability offers through the implementation of visible practical applications.
Q. How is CREW Energy structured?
A. CREW Energy is a community benefit society, number 7286. This means we are a registered not-for-profit co-operative that is set up for the benefit of the community. Members of the group come from diverse backgrounds, but together we have a substantial amount of expertise in renewables and related issues. Visit the ‘who are we’ page on our website to find out more about us. We are currently looking for local community partners to being a sustainability project.
Q. What kinds of energy production are renewable?
A. Energy sources are called 'renewable' when they have a net zero carbon footprint and do not contribute to global warming as fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal do. There are currently a number of renewable energy technologies available, but, only a few are appropriate to urban London locations. The easiest kinds to install here are Solar PV (photovoltaic cells, good for any building with sufficient flat or appropriately orientated roof space) and Solar Thermal (solar water heating arrays, best for leisure centres & swimming pools). More difficult, but not impossible in the urban situation, is the use of biomass fuels (fuels that are cropped and re-grown such as timber and wood pellets).
Other methods of generating energy that have similar benefits to renewables, but require considerable organisation and capital commitment, are ground sourced heat pumps (heat exchangers using low grade heat from underground sources), district heating (efficiency of larger scale boilers possibly using biofuel) and CHP (combined heat and power generation, utilising plant that produces electrical energy and usable heat from the same source).
Renewable energy is proportionately more effective the more energy efficient the building supplied is. Installing energy efficiency measures (such as increasing insulation or improving air tightness) would preferably form part of a whole-building approach, including renewables.
Q. What other sustainability projects are CREW Energy pursuing?
A. CREW Energy plans to work across London to help a range of partners swap their existing lightbulbs for LED lights.
LED lights are on average 90% more efficient than conventional bulbs, and still more efficient and more effective than conventional energy saving light bulbs. By switching all of your building’s bulbs over to LEDs we can help you save 90% on your lighting bills.
CREW Energy would provide the up-front finance to buy the lights and install them. You would then pay us back in instalments over a number of years, using the money you have saved on your lighting bills. LED lights have become cheaper and a lot more versatile in recent years. They are typically guaranteed to last for 10-15 years or more. Therefore, you would pay us back something like 75% of your electricity bill savings over an agreed period (e.g. 3-5 years) and then enjoy the full savings on your bills for the remaining 5-10 years of the life of the bulbs.
Q. What are the important features of a community scheme?
A. The central feature of a community energy scheme is that it offers more to the local community than just a commercially led scheme. A community scheme is at least partly owned by the focus community and as a consequence equity finance, income and surpluses originate in and stay with it. The sense of community ownership and management reinforces community spirit and collaboration and ensures community orientated decision making.
Funds are usually managed by a registered society (see above) and are thus securely dedicated to community benefit. Collateral benefits to the community as a result of the scheme can be empowerment, education, skills training and employment. There is also the opportunity to benefit from Government and Local Government incentives and grants aimed at community and renewable energy projects.
Q. How is the scheme funded?
A. There are various possibilities for funding a renewable energy/sustainability project, which can be adopted individually or combined in some way. Equity funding would be based on a local share offer to invest directly in the scheme. This could be done directly or through a crowd funding platform such as Ethex or Microgenius. Debt funding would be based on a loan from a community energy focused funding organisation such as Pure Leapfrog or Resonance, which would help underwrite any share offer and plug any shortfall in local fundraising. A funding strategy would also aim to benefit from Government and other grants. Finally, there is the possibility that individuals or a company might invest or sponsor the project more substantially.
Q. What happens if something goes wrong?
A. In the event of something going wrong, responsibilities are roughly divided as follows. If there is a failure of the installation (e.g. solar panels or LED lightbulbs), CREW will be responsible, but will seek redress under the equipment suppliers warranty. Vandalism will be covered by insurance. Facilities failures not deemed to be a result of the installation and normal repairs fall to the building owner, who would activate the terms of the lease or would have to negotiate with CREW Energy for loss of income whilst the panels are down. A fairly standard practice is to waive any loss for 2 weeks.