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Let the sun shine – South East London Community Energy

Local community group has big plans to put the 'green' into Greenwich

By Kristian Brunt-Seymour

An ambitious new sustainable energy initiative has recently come to Greenwich to make the community a greener place to live and work.

Established in 2014, South East London Community Energy is a registered community benefit society based in East Greenwich. It’s run by a group of highly skilled volunteers from the local community most of whom come from a sustainability background and share the vision of Greenwich as a low-carbon society.

The group held their first meeting in March 2014, and have since harnessed some of the local knowledge, ingenuity and creative skills and quickly developed into an efficient working operation.

Now they plan to set up their first socially, financially and environmentally sustainable projects in the community including installing solar panels on a community centre in Woolwich and two schools in the Greenwich, one of which is Charlton Park Academy.

“We were aware there were other cooperatives being set up across the country and thought ‘wouldn't it be great if there was one in our country’”, explains Dr Giovanna Speciale, one SELCE’s Directors, “It’s about putting the ‘community’ in community generated projects.”

Funding for the purchase of the solar panels is raised through a Community Share Offer where local residents invest in a viable local project that could benefit the community.

Each building may have as many as 40 solar panels installed on their roof, ten times the number often installed on domestic homes.

The team calculate that the solar panels will produce a total capacity of 233kWp and avoid producing 94 tones of carbon emissions, the same annual emissions reductions as removing 22 cars from the roads for a year or by planting 2422 trees.

SELCE leases the roof spaces for 20 years from the local authority and will maintain the upkeep of the panels through a subsidy known as the Feed in Tariff.

The Feed in Tariff will also help fund the organisation’s ongoing work to tackle fuel poverty, which will involve SELCE training up local energy champions through community groups. These champions will in turn assist residents in their catchment areas save money on their energy bills though methods like finding better energy providers.

“We aim to follow on from previous successful energy community projects in London boroughs such as Brixton”, explains Dr Speciale, “There’s an attractive element to the project on a practical level as well as a social and environmental level. You can physically see how these projects are benefiting the community and schools will get a monitor showing how much electricity the solar panels are generating, so there’s an educational element to the project as well.”

“We believe that communities, regardless of financial resources, should have access to the benefits of affordable low carbon technologies and through these projects we aim to reach that goal.”

Work is likely to begin in Spring 2015. For information on SELCE go to: www.selce.org.uk and sign up for updates or for some energy efficiency advice, follow them online on Facebook or Twitter.


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