Worried about climate change but don’t know what to do? Keen to support solar energy but have no idea how? Those were the questions that a group of Herne Hill cyclists chatted about as they pedalled along. Until they decided to set up a group – SE24 – to provide solar answers that we can be part of in our very own Herne Hill and South East London. So on Sunday 12th July, hosted by the Salvation Army, SE24 organised an evening of expert speakers and provided people a chance to share ideas.
People interested in sustainable development, and in particular in community solar energy projects, came together to exchange ideas about the need for solar, and to learn about everything from the rather scary technicalities to the equally complex process of setting up panels on community buildings.
Local Labour MP, Helen Hayes, gave an inspiring introduction, and encouraged local communities to tackle climate change themselves, to take energy matters into our own hands, and to move forward together on projects like SE24.
Dr Paul Chambers, one of the core members of SE24, works for the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change and is currently seconded to the British Embassy in Jakarta, working on clean energy programmes in Indonesia. He outlined the impact of global warming and the need to reduce CO2 emissions, not just in the UK but also globally. With a look to the future Paul addressed the positive impact solar energy can have and the current, surprisingly large achievements of solar in the UK. One day last week 16% of the UK’s electricity was generated by solar – and that’s higher than Italy!
Joe Miletic, a solar power professional and technical advisor to SE24, explained in more detail how solar panels work. Joe, a solar energy engineer working at Sonnedix on asset management for an international portfolio of solar PV plants (100MW) outlined the different types of panels and their effectiveness in generating electricity. Strange as it may seem, the UK, despite many rainy days, is actually very suited to produce electricity through sunlight captured by photo voltaic panels.
With the efficiency of solar in mind, Chris Rowland told the audience about the success of Ovesco Ltd, who have been mentoring SE24, their community energy projects and how people are coming together across the country to help others set up similar solar initiatives. He reminded everyone that we are part of a growing movement in which people are working towards the same aims with a better, greener future in mind.
Finally, Mark Hughes, the SE24 treasurer described the process of installing solar pv panels through SE24 and the Government Feed In Tariff scheme. Mark, who spent 25 years leading the Power Utilities team in Price Waterhouse Cooper and is a member of the DECC Expert Group advising on the new support structure for large scale low carbon generation, highlighted the safe financial benefits of investing in a community energy project. He also shed light on the process that SE24 will commit to on behalf of the site roof owners in exchange for a 20-year lease on their roof.
As you would expect in Herne Hill, the audience had plenty of tricky questions. WAS THAT TRUE? For example, someone asked about whether it was better to invest in solar panels for your home or in a larger scale project such as SE24. The answer? Of course it’s great to put solar panels on your roof. But the benefits of SE24 include not having to invest a huge amount to cover the costs of installation on just one home, and the philanthropic returns of investing through a certified Community Benefit Society, so giving back to the local community. We received great feedback from those there and we look forward to staying in touch. One woman emailed the very next day saying: “I woke very early with my mind racing with ideas for how to get more and more people involved and aware…”
Wish you had been there? Don’t worry – we’ve got plenty more events planned for September to spread the word and keep the community informed of our developments – so watch this space! And please get in touch if you want to know more. Just email us – details below.
We believe that we can make a difference, not only in reducing our dependence upon fossil fuels but also to tackle local fuel poverty. So please start encouraging your local school, church, or any public building to install solar panels through SE24 – and get in touch if you have burning questions or bright ideas!