- About us
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- Getting community energy involved in Local Enterprise Partnerships
- The energy system is in flux, let’s ready ourselves for a community takeover
- Celebrating a strong year for energised communities at CfR
- Community Energy at the forefront of disruptive change in the energy sector
- Meet your MP about community energy this Community Energy Fortnight
- We can do more to foster community energy in low-income communities.
- What next for community energy in a post-FIT world?
- A new generation of investors are using their money to drive change
- People, Power and Happiness
- A review of CEF17
- Community energy, a magic bullet for a multitude of charitable objectives
- Community Energy Fortnight Lobbying Pack 2017
- How smart technology is empowering rural energy projects
- Community energy is not just what we do, but how we do it - By Ed Mayo, Co-operatives UK
- “It's all still to play for" says Co-op Energy's Head of Renewables
- York Community Energy trip round the panels of Auld Reekie with Edinburgh Community Solar
- The Ramblers: Protecting the places we love to walk in a changing climate
- Why Community Energy Fortnight is so important - By Emma Bridge
- CEF17 is Powering Together!
- Community Energy Fortnight 2017 dates announced and news of a new collaboration
- The community energy revolution is evolving, and the future’s bright
- Investing in community energy schemes
- Energising faith communities: the Spirit project
- Community Energy - the way forward
- CEF16 dates announced
- The community energy revolution pushes on in face of storm clouds
- Blogs 2015
- Blogs 2014
Imagine if every UK school ran on sun
In 2013 the music store HMV went into administration. For record fans and those of us who like to physically buy things, it was the end of an era. Many said that it was inevitable – the old format simply could not compete with the rise of online music sales and digital streaming. Yet few would have predicted just how rapid its decline would be.
What does this have to do with community renewables? Well it's stories like this, or perhaps the rise of Facebook, that show how quickly things can change with the advancement of new technologies. The same can be said about energy.
Coupled with energy saving, renewables have colossal potential to transform our energy system, and to wean us off fossil fuels. Just 3% of the UK’s landmass devoted to solar could provide all the electricity we now use. Covering 15% of our best positioned rooftops would provide as much power as six nuclear power stations. Using all our available roof space would meet our national electricity needs, and at increasingly low cost.
In fact, in just the last couple of years the cost of solar power has fallen by 80%, and it is still dropping. Investment houses are taking note, with banks like UBS and Citigroup predicting huge increases in renewable energy, particularly solar power. And it is not just solar. Wind power is getting cheaper all the time. In the US it recently became the cheapest form of energy beating every single other source.
Crucially though it's not just the energy source that is changing. The way power is owned and distributed is developing too. Fed up with high electricity bills from the Big Six energy suppliers, community groups across rural and urban areas are slowly installing their own renewable energy projects – supported by increasingly cheaper and better storage. Shareholders make a return on their investment, and income is often reinvested locally.
Sadly, while the UK is now doing reasonably well in terms of growing its overall renewable energy sources, it is lagging badly behind in terms of community ownership and involvement. In Germany, around 40% of renewable energy is owned by individuals and communities. In the UK it is just a few percent. Yet this, like the music industry, could change very quickly indeed, if we can give it a push in the right direction.
Friends of the Earth wants everyone to have the opportunity to generate and sell their own clean energy, through cooperatives and community groups. Not only will this help to decarbonise the UK's energy supply, but it will create jobs and spread the benefits of a green economy far wider than the current set up, where the Big Six pocket all the takings. Yes we will need big centralised power too, but there's no reason why we could not be far more involved.
It’s for this reason that Friends of the Earth has launched its Run on Sun campaign, with support from players of People's Postcode Lottery. We need to make better use of free and clean energy around us all, and make it a familiar sight to see.
Hanover Primary School, Islington, London, May 2014
As a first step we are trying to make sure that every school that wants to, can install solar power. If every school in the UK had solar panels they'd save more than £200 million a year, and generate enough electricity to power an entire city. Our startling infographic reveals all. We’ve provided a How-To guide to help schools wanting solar power to get moving. And anyone can nominate a school to enter our exciting new competition to win solar panels.
Of course, there are barriers that we must overcome. While solar power makes money, it also requires large up-front investment. That’s why one of our first objectives is to change Government rules so that schools can borrow money to invest in solar. And why stop at schools? Every public building should have solar panels. We want an easier application process for all community groups to get started, and priority access for renewables to the grid.
The truth is that renewable energy is at a tipping point. No one knows what will happen in the future, or exactly what the changes will be, but we know that the system is changing. The old model of the Big Six and fossil fuels is collapsing – and far more quickly than some think. Friends of the Earth wants to make sure that we move to a low-carbon energy system in which everyone can be involved, and we need as much public support as possible to help make it happen.
Installing solar on local schools might seem like a small thing, like downloading a track or buying an mps player, but a lot of small actions can have a huge impact. Just ask HMV.
Friends of the Earth is a member of the Community Energy Coalition and are involved in the Community Energy Fortnight that runs until 28th September 2014.
Alasdair Cameron, Friends of the Earth's Renewable Energy Campaigner
17th Sept 2014