Aside from tackling the climate emergency, solar is creating essential new income, jobs and services.
Solar is fast becoming the low cost way to generate clean electricity across the globe. As the technology reaches a tipping point, potentially generating the majority of our power between 2030 and 2050 according to recent projections, it is not only its zero carbon credentials that means it is the right way forward. Because solar is capable of producing energy locally, and being owned by many, it is disrupting traditional energy systems and quite literally redistributing power. Solar is, in short, improving lives.
The social impact of this renewable power can clearly be seen in Africa, where in the last decade alone over 200 million now have access to clean affordable electricity, and notably communities in Europe where locally owned energy is rolling out across schools, community centres and housing. Rather than summarise the vast impact of solar across the globe, we’ll focus in on Europe for now.
The origins of community energy
Community energy was first established in the German town of Wildpoldsried in the late 90’s with the development of wind and biomass projects to generate local heat and power. The town is now energy independent, producing over 300 percent more energy than it needs and creating an additional 4 million Euro each year. Oh, and it has since reduced its carbon footprint by a not insignificant 65%. Inspired by this pioneering approach to democratization, community energy has since become increasingly popular across Europe and in the UK in particular where driven groups have seized the opportunity to use the model as a force for social good.
One example of a British community energy success story is Repowering London. Established in 2012 to create resilient, empowered communities that control and own the generation and usage of renewable energy – Repowering is bringing the benefits of solar to the many. Based in Brixton South London, the group has established six community projects with support and investment from over 450 people across the UK. Having installed a total of 387 kWp of solar, their projects are also preventing over 130 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. Crowd-funding each project, the solar systems are owned by the local community and also generate funds for essential local services.