PUNL Director Ben Pearce shares his view on why you should get involved with your local community energy project in 2017
You’ve joined the gym, given up booze, and exclusively eaten fruit and nuts for four days straight, but mysteriously, you don’t feel any happier. Deep down, you know that in two weeks you’ll be in the pub, on your third pint, scoffing some chips. But what if we told you that you could find purpose, could change the world, from within the four walls of a PUB!? How, you say? Community Energy, that’s how!
In the year that everyone is intent on convincing you that it was terrible to be alive, some good stuff actually did happen! For example, PUNL worked with the amazing people at St Anne’s Church and Joju Solar to install 19 kW of solar panels. This was all possible because 60 wonderful people in our community stumped up £30k to pay for the panels, which they will receive back over the next 20 years, with a bit of interest.
However, it is fair to say that this project couldn’t have happened without the core group of PUNL itself. We don’t do it for the praise by any stretch, but the whole group has an immense sense of pride and satisfaction at the way in which we were able to bring together so many people to create something beautiful and sustainable. It’s fair to say nothing beats the feeling of seeing a permanent beacon of hope in your community that you can feel happened as a result of your actions. It really does give you a sense of empowerment when (young) people are increasingly struggling to find purpose in life.
Our core group of 10 or so local residents, working in various different types of jobs. We have been meeting once a month to drive renewable energy projects forward in our community. The motives that we share are:
- We want to combat climate change
- We want to do this through positive action and believe in the power of social enterprise to do this; we have a shared ‘can do’ attitude.
It’s been an incredible journey so far for us – there have been multiple times at which it looked as if the one project we have to show for our work wouldn’t go ahead, but we’ve powered through together, with the help of others in our community and I think that resilience is something that we have taken into other walks of life. The other things we’ve done that most of us had never done before:
- Registered a company
- Won a £20k grant
- Raised £30k of community shares
- Received a round of applause from Ed Miliband
- Spoken about solar at events alongside founders of well established charities in esteemed venues
- Won planning permission
- Formed relationships with local Councillors
- Starred in a video with a proper camera
- Been to City Hall
Not to mention developed some wonderful friendships. None of us knew that much about renewable energy before we started, and the way we developed technical and financial knowledge along the way and are now able to share that with others, has been a big personal confidence boost and a great demonstration of what an effective team can do.
There’s so much potential for community energy – our share offer closed 10 days before it was scheduled to and there is support from across our community. In 2017, we have already booked in a number of exciting meetings with some potential new projects, but with our big ambitions to scale up community energy in North London, we could really do with some extra hands on deck in our core group to help us do more. Whatever your strengths, we need help to take on new projects and scale up in the coming year. All that is needed is an enthusiasm for community energy! However we would be especially grateful to hear from people with experience or an interest in:
- Marketing & Communications / Social media
- Community outreach and advice
- Property law
- Project management
- Renewable energy
As we hope you can see above – it’s a hugely fulfilling and stimulating thing to be a part of and we do hope you would consider coming along to just one meeting to see what you think. If any of these areas (or others) interest you, please do get in touch via email or come to our next meeting in January (we’ll publish the details on the website).
And perhaps you’ll be able to look back at 2017 with pride and happiness – a resolution that will really make you feel better about yourself!