Bristol Power Co-op: the sustainability of Sun

Nowadays, human beings need more energy than ever due to new technologies, globalisation and transports. However, at the same time, climate change has become an urgent issue. Even governments have started to organise climate meetings around the world and furthermore, since 2008 in Europe, some cities has been selected to be Green Capital. This year, the UK will have a go with Bristol Green Capital.

Environmental policies could be in a conflictal ways. For instance, in the UK, Torries have encouraged fracking but green policies already settled have allowed people to get a 5% reduced rate of VAT (https://www.gov.uk/tax-on-shopping/energy-saving-products) to generalise energy-saving products such as solar panel or wind turbines. Also, some people have decided to fight climate change by themselves and some local Councils such as Bristol city Council, have started to bear this kind of projects. Bristol Power Co-op is one of those.  

What is their challenge? How can they change consummation and thoughts about environment issues?

2015-year will be the most important year for every eco-friendly project in Bristol. For the Energy Action Group, their goal is clear: “Accelerate progress to Bristol becoming a truly energy sustainable city by reducing energy consumption, increasing generation of renewable energy and eliminating fuel poverty”. Their aim is to support renewable energies project and get involved in a huge network, the Bristol Energy Network’s Community Strategy. Many projects are working towards this one. In 2013 already, during Big Green Week, Mayor George Ferguson endorsed a strategy for launching Bristol Solar City. “Bristol Solar City has a goal of 1 gigawatt of solar in Bristol. The city council itself published the UK’s first solar map showing room for 700 megawatt of solar (equivalent to a power station) in the city alone” (source: Bristol Power Co-op magazine).

We have met one of these eco-friendly projects interested in renewable energy and involved in the Bristol Energy Network’s Community Strategy. The Bristol Co-op Power project is economically, ecologically and socially very interesting. Based at the Hamilton House in Stokes Croft, they provide sustainable energy and give households a solar panel and energy for free. “Bristol Co-op’s mission is to develop community ownership of renewable energy by people, for people, to help: create green jobs, reduce fuel poverty, build community and energy resilience and alleviate climate change”.

How does it work? To be sure members get solar panel and energy for free, the cooperative has some investors who provides its capital. They receive interest payments and gradually getting their capital back over the course of 20 years. Then the co-op develops projects, maintains the solar PV installation and pay interest to investors. Finally the householders become members and using energy.

David Saunders, the Bristol Power Co-op funder has been interested in renewal energies for 4 years when he has been in Germany. Get 100% of the electricity from solar panels for cheaper energy, develop community-owned energy, create green jobs, reduce fuel poverty, build a strong social capital and alleviate climate change are his main goals.« The idea was Bristol to have 100% renewable energy if you are doing that, it means you create lot of work for lot of people and if you are going to just mess around with volunteers at some point you need to make a transition to make this work economically for people buying energy and for people generating energy ». Thus, electricity company is owned by the members, the surplus electricity generates money to pay for further installations.

David has a precised idea of his project « If you have solar in a roof in Stokes Croft, Montpelier or Clifton no surprise as there are lot of upper class or middle class and I wanted to see if we can going to a working class area ». So far, Bristol Power Co-op has put solar panels on Hamilton House roof and on 23 roofs in Locklease, north Bristol - a working class area indeed. However, to get a powerful project, the most people you can have the better and for doing that you must encourage and propose a cheaper energy than they have already.  

David has shown that it is possible to get a free energy plan and today, solar can easily replace nuclear.


Camille Felouzis

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