The high-rise community with its own solar power
The Bartlett has helped enable the UK’s first peer-to-peer electricity market which allows social housing tenants to directly benefit from the solar PV array and communal battery.
The Greater London Authority’s Solar Action Plan, published in June 2018, makes clear the need to increase the amount of renewable energy produced in London. The plan is specific, stating that the capital should have the capacity to produce two gigawatts of electricity from solar panels by 2050. Solar photovoltaics and thermal systems enable households and businesses to independently generate electricity and hot water and thereby reduce their use of grid electricity. If they also install a battery, they can choose when to access the grid, prioritising times when power is at its cheapest or greenest. In addition, they can earn income by selling excess power and storage to the grid when it is needed.
Which is all well and good. However, not everyone can afford the technology or find the space to install it. Low-income households living in blocks of flats can be particularly constrained. They may not have the means or the rights to put assets on their building and may therefore get excluded from accessing cheaper greener energy. This compounds inequalities that already exist in the energy market wherein some of the most vulnerable customers pay more for their energy.
Repowering London is an organisation working to change this situation. The rules and regulations of the electricity market prevent small scale energy co-ops from selling the renewable energy they generate direct to local consumers. Repowering has historically found ways to work around these restrictions and ensure that benefits of local renewables can be accessible to all. They crowdsource finance for photovoltaic panels, negotiate roof leases from social housing landlords and provide community benefit funds.
They also offer training opportunities and fuel poverty advice to widen out the benefits of the schemes. The CommUNITY trial was different. It was a chance to directly connect residents of Elmore House to the power generated on their roof. To do this, Repowering partnered with EDF Energy, one of the UK’s largest suppliers, and UCL researchers to create a local energy market.