UKYCC has partnered with the Centre for Sustainable Energy to launch a new programme, ‘Community Energy Catalysts’, supporting young people to start projects in their community to cut energy waste and generate renewable energy.
We’ve all learnt that solving climate change requires us to create a clean, green energy system with less waste and more renewable sources. The trouble is, faced with the task of transforming our energy system, it’s easy to be stuck feeling a little powerless. I love it when massive offshore wind farms start generating, or when dirty power stations shut down, but short of daredevil feats or becoming Eric Pickles (erm, no thanks), there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to help.I diligently make sure I switch my lights off at home when I don’t need them, but I can’t help but feel like my actions are a drop in the ocean.
Making big challenges accessible and making small acts meaningful is what UKYCC does best. The United Nations climate talks are one of the most inaccessible political processes around, but every year UKYCC’s delegation helps young people understand, engage and be heard. Government decisions on what to include in the national curriculum can seem irreversible, but following Esha’s lead, we’ve shown that they are not. It can be impossible to know where to begin to bring your community together to become more climate-friendly, but the Local Catalysts project has helped young people do just that around the UK.
The community energy movement has spent the last few years figuring out how people can take control of and push forward the transformation to a low-carbon energy system.
Community energy can mean a wide range of things. In Cornwall, Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN) has a town-wide vision for changing the use and generation of energy, engaging as many people as possible from their Energy Shop. In Settle, Yorkshire, local community members invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in a state-of-the-art hydropower system. In South London, Brixton Energy has supported various housing estates to fund their own solar panels, offering apprenticeships to local young people in the process.
What gets me really excited about community energy is the way it combines three principles that are really important to me: sustainability, social justice and democracy. First, they reduce fossil fuel use, cutting carbon emissions and slowing climate change. They do this democratically, being controlled by local communities. This stands in contrast to old-school centralised energy decisions, which have traditionally been made by national government without much thought for the impact on local communities. Because the decisions are made by the communities affected by the outcome, community energy projects also tend to have a strong social impact, helping people find work near where they live and helping those who can least afford energy to be able to use it more efficiently.
As great as these projects are, the trouble is that they can be inaccessible to young people. Popping up a wind turbine seems achievable if you’ve had a successful career managing energy projects, but for most people it’s extremely daunting. If you’re not an expert yourself, you either need to know one or be able to pay for one: two very difficult routes to go down! For these and a variety of other reasons, community energy has remained only marginally more accessible than the super-scale, dirty energy infrastructure we’re seeking to replace.
Despite these barriers, young people have already proved that they have what it takes to supercharge community energy projects. UKYCC organiser Millie is a case in point. Last September she set up Hackney Energy, which is now a blossoming community energy group. Millie explains:
“We are currently working with Repowering London to set up an energy cooperative in the borough. We are planning to install community-owned solar panels on Hackney roofs, whilst also providing paid work experience opportunities for local young people and the creation of a community fund to provide energy efficiency advice to help tackle fuel poverty. Energy cooperatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members and I see them as one of the solutions to the environmental and social problems we see around us. Get together with your communities and get organised and let’s build solutions! Getting these projects going requires the energy and enthusiasm of young people and you can learn so much by getting involved.”
– Millie Darling, 21, Hackney Energy Chair and UKYCC organiser
Today UKYCC is super excited to be able to launch the Community Energy Catalysts programme, run in partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE).
The Community Energy Catalysts programme will support 20 young people to start their own community energy projects with specialist training and mentoring from UKYCC, CSE and a network of existing community energy groups. We’re going to throw the doors to the community energy movement wide open, supporting young people to supercharge the movement.
The programme will consist of four day-long training sessions on various aspects of community organising, climate-friendly energy and project management. These sessions will be complemented by six online seminars on various specific aspects of community energy. At the same time, participants will be connected with an experienced mentor from a nearby community energy group who will provide dedicated support and advice in getting their new project off the ground.
If you’d like to get involved in this project, please fill in the registration of interest forms linked to below. We will do all we can to make this programme accessible to everyone, so please don’t hesitate to let us know of anything we could do to ensure you can participate. All travel costs incurred during the programme will be reimbursed and we will do our utmost to meet whatever access needs participants have.
We are recruiting people in three capacities:
- Programme participants: twenty committed young people aged 18 – 29 who would like to launch themselves into community energy organising. If you are a young person interested in participating in the programme, register your interest using this form.
- Mentors: experienced community energy organisers who would like to support others. Your community energy group may receive some reimbursement for your time spent in this role. If you are an experienced community energy organiser interested in being a mentor, register your interest using this form.
- Project co-ordinators: we’re looking for two experienced activists to join the other UKYCC volunteers co-ordinating the programme. Some of this work might be paid. If you are interested in this role, e-mail UKYCC co-director Simon: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Community Energy Catalysts project is funded by the Cabinet Office’s Office for Social Action through the Community Energy Peer Mentoring Fund.