We sat down with Glasgow Community Energy to learn a little more about what they do, and their plans for the future.
Please could you introduce yourself and the group/groups you represent?
My name is Calum Watkins and I am a volunteer director for Glasgow Community Energy, a volunteer run organisation whose vision is to see vulnerable communities empowered through developing innovative locally owned, community energy projects across the city.
The revenue from selling energy that is generated from the projects is reinvested back into these areas providing support for local projects and groups. Outside of GCE, I work as a Smart Grid Consultant with Smarter Grid Solutions where I look at innovative methods of decarbonising our energy system whilst maintaining security of supply.
Why did you feel the need to create a group with focus surrounding community energy?
We are focused on democratising the energy sector and giving clean power into the hands of ordinary people. Community energy benefits vulnerable and deprived communities through the funding we provide and our cooperative model means that anyone can invest and become a member with equal voting rights.
One of the COP 26 goals is to secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach. To deliver this target the UK will need to encourage investment in renewables. How do you feel the work being carried out by Glasgow Community Energy will impact this goal locally?
We see the role of community energy as crucial to the clean energy transition as we sit between government, industry and communities. Our goal is to be an enabler for energy projects where local authorities are unable to deliver and corporations lack the communication channels and relationships with the communities. The Scottish Government has a target to have 2 GW of community and locally owned renewable energy by 2030 and community energy organisations are the key delivery partners to achieving this. We are also using the revenue from projects to build resilience in vulnerable communities where the inevitable impacts of climate change will be felt first.
Finally, following on from the last question, what have you learnt from your project to date?
As a group of passionate volunteers with no previous expertise in developing our own solar energy projects, we have learnt a lot! There are so many challenges to communities creating their own energy projects. As an engineer, I thought once we had addressed the technical challenges and chosen sites, it would be fairly straightforward! It turns out, there are so many elements to these projects, from planning permission and procurement, to legal contracts and finance we have had to get to grips on all of it. Fortunately, we have had fantastic support from the community and local energy sector and plenty of determination. We hope to continue with more projects across the city and enable thriving community projects. You can find out more about us on our website.