How a UK community organisation is shaping future energy leaders

13 August 2020

Stories from the frontlines of climate hope

During the 2019 climate strikes, communities, activists, concerned citizens and schoolchildren united on an unprecedented scale to protest for urgent action on the climate emergency. People demanded that governments across the world ensure a safe and sustainable future for everyone. The climate movement has been gaining momentum and has received more attention that ever before. Fighting for global system change is a long battle and often the overpowering structures discourage you from the fight.
This story is set in London, where the government has been significantly reducing local councils’ budgets causing uncertain futures and financial insecurity. People are losing their trust in the government to effectively protect people’s futures. However, CREW Energy, a south-west London not-for-profit has found a local and accessible way to fight for systemic change by advocating for community energy and bringing power into the hands of the people.

Power at the grassroots

CREW Energy was founded in 2014 by members of Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland to take action against fuel poverty, energy inefficiency and fossil fuel reliance. Today, its main goal is helping communities across south-west London to become environmentally and financially sustainable. Its vision: a greener, fairer community for everyone can be created from the grassroots. CREW Energy coordinates projects on energy transformation and hosts energy-advice cafés to make residents more aware about energy efficiency. 

Tea, biscuits and energy advice

These regular exchanges take place in community hubs where CREW Energy staff invite community members to have a conversation about their role in energy efficiency – whilst sharing delicious tea and biscuits. In this welcoming setting people can get advice about the best energy tariffs, additional benefits, grants and discounts on energy bills. CREW’s Energy cafés aim at tackling fuel poverty and supporting marginalised groups’ well-being: Many communities, particularly those in socially and economically deprived areas, do not normally have access to such energy expertise. One special success of CREW’s energy cafés was when a resident saved £300 on their energy bills because of what they learnt at a session - proof enough that these spaces are needed and life-changing for the community.

Tomorrow’s leaders

CREW Energy’s efforts to make their work sustainable also means that they educate and empower young people to pursue careers in the energy sector with financial stability.
Yunus Nas, a recent Environmental Science graduate who has just completed CREW's Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) assessor training which trains young people to assess household efficiency, rejoices:

Getting EPC qualified has given me a wealth of knowledge about energy efficiency and evaluating the needs of a home to improve its energy rating. It has given me the confidence and encouragement to implement my training to effect change on a local level. It's a great way to deploy my skills and experience as an environmental science graduate to help accelerate my community toward a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.”

Armelle Lee, a young member who joined CREW as a volunteer energy advisor in 2019, states:

“From very early on as a new volunteer member of CREW, I discovered the secret ingredient which makes Community Energy so successful: its collaborative nature! Mentoring and sharing of knowledge allows to create maximum impact. This has been visible within CREW itself, and also on a much broader level with collaboration on different projects between community energy groups right across the country.”

Supporting younger generations by giving them the tools and resources to be green leaders is a vital approach of planting seeds for sustainable futures.

Graduates of a CREW Energy training

Let’s take eco-action

CREW Energy's sustainability education also includes youngsters between 8 and 12 with a project of inspiring eco action games. These games are educating young people in a fun way on how to live, work and play in energy smart areas. One of the motivating highlights from the eco action games was CREW Energy listening to schoolchildren do a presentation at a youth council event on green measures they were taking in relation to recycling, food waste and energy efficiency. Parents have highly praised the work of CREW Energy, noting their children are unplugging their electronic devices before they go to bed. These are just a few examples of how CREW Energy is shaping tomorrow’s green leaders.

To empower even more young people to be active changemakers in their communities, the community organisation is hoping to train young residents to be domestic energy assessors, so that they can offer lifestyle carbon assessments to local residents. Providing employability skills to young people is important to ensure they achieve a financially secure future in an ethical and sustainable way.

The future of community energy: CREW’s vision

CREW Energy believes that community energy is due to take off in the next 10 years - and if governments remain inactive, it will be down to community groups to develop projects and source funding themselves. CREW Energy would like to see energy systems decentralised and more local assets to be owned by and run for, the community. Like this more people will recognise that they hold the power to make radical changes in their communities. Since the energy sector does not address the struggles communities face such as fuel poverty and energy inefficiency, CREW Energy has taken the responsibility to train young people to be the holistic energy leaders of tomorrow.

Just when you despair at the state of the planet, these communities show us optimism. Their solutions show us what societal transformation will look like. Together, we can make a fossil free future happen now.