Last week a few of us attended the inaugural Community Energy London ‘Question Time’ event at City Hall.
In light of recent events in the sector, everyone was under strict instructions to keep comments as positive and optimistic as possible. The reality was that most of the speakers and commentators struck a more pragmatic and realistic tone about the situation all of our groups are in.
Either way, it was great to be able to celebrate some of the brilliant work some of our fellow groups have achieved and also the sheer diversity and creativity of projects. Whether that’s SELCE with their oversubscribed share offer that’s just closed, or LEAP Micro AD with their fascinating solar/thermal/wind/anaerobic digestion projects. And it’s always re-assuring to hear about the work that our enablers & advocates at Pure Leapfrog and Community Energy England have been up to.
So what were PUNL’s key take-aways?
- The future of the community energy sector is bright to regardless of future policy developments. There were around 20 groups represented from across the city and another 10+ that couldn’t make it. Never mind the rest of the country and the rest of the world! Sometimes when the clock ticks past midnight on a Tuesday night and you’re still working on that financial model/funding application/promotional leaflet [delete as appropriate] it can all feel a bit overwhelming; Is this really all worth it? Can we really achieve anything meaningful? But once the group comes together at the monthly meeting and you hear about all the other hours everyone has been putting in to keep all of the other cogs turning, it gives you a huge sense of optimism and resilience of what can be achieved as a team. An event like the one last week multiplies that feeling by thirty-something. The combined amount of dedication and enthusiasm in the room was a real source of inspiration!
- Off the back of this event, we think the creation of a more formal London Community Energy Network could be a brilliant thing. We’re all going through so many of the same things and again it was re-assuring to hear about the similar [insert acronym here] challenges other groups had overcome. But imagine if we each could speak to one another about these hurdles before we reach them. It would enable projects at all stages and the sector as whole to grow much more quickly and efficiently. In addition to that, we discussed the ‘peak and trough’ nature of community energy groups, being predominantly volunteer-run. In future, it could be hugely beneficial to be able to mobilise the network to be able to support those groups most in need. Perhaps one group is on pause as a lease is developed whilst another is all hands on deck trying to raise funds for a share offer. We’re all fighting for the same ultimate goal and I’m sure are willing to help one another out in practical ways. Finally, a unified network could give us a much stronger voice when we have things to say. Rather than all blogging and tweeting about the same thing in slightly nuanced ways, a singular message backed by 30+ organisations should see us heard louder and wider.
- There are ample opportunities to innovate. Encouraging a reduction in energy use by reducing electricity costs to roof owners as their consumption falls was one such opportunity that came up. More conversations will enable more of these ideas to be generated and shared.
So maybe there are reasons to be optimistic!