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Energy explained

How councils can help the renewable revolution

Communities across the country are leading the renewable revolution - let’s get local councils to do the same. Ahead of elections, we’re asking them to go green and commit to a renewable future.

We want to help as many people as possible to go green. As part of this effort, we’re calling on local councils across the country to pledge to switch to a renewable energy supplier. Communities are leading the way when it comes to renewables. Let’s get councils to do the same!

Councils can join the renewable revolution

We did some research to find out who councils are purchasing their energy from at the moment. We discovered that no local authority in Britain has switched to a fully renewable supplier. Nine out of ten are supplied by one of the Big Six or an oil supermajor, such as Total. These results surprised us. And they surprised the news people too, who’ve been writing about our research.

Our research reveals that councils - including some who have expressed vocal support for renewables - are currently missing out on the chance to go green. There’s a huge opportunity for councils across the country to lead from the front and show that they’re committed to a renewable future. A change would benefit the environment, while opening up opportunities to cut publicly-funded energy bills.

That’s why we’re encouraging people to write to their local councils and call on them to commit to switching to a renewable energy provider. We’d love to see councils help protect the planet, and save some money for residents too.

How local communities are leading the way

The results of our research are particularly surprising given that local communities are actually leading the renewable revolution. We’ve been so impressed with local green energy projects that are springing up across the country. We thought we’d show some of our favourites here.

1. Europe’s first solar cinema

Hackney Energy is another amazing London group that works with communities to help them go green. Its current project, in association with Wilton Estate Tenants Association, is to turn the Rio Cinema in Dalston into the first solar-powered cinema in the UK and possibly Europe.

The Rio cinema in Dalston

The plan is to install 55 panels on the roof. The solar energy generated during the day will be stored in the batteries to power the cinema’s projector at night. We’ve written about this amazing community before. Led by Bulb hero Debbie Mitchener, we’re so impressed with what they’re getting done.

2. Bristol’s "people-owned power station"

Bristol Energy Cooperative is a community-owned energy cooperative doing loads of exciting green projects. It’s funded by investor members and supported by Bristol City Council, which hopes to make the city run on 100% renewables by 2050.

Bristol is a leading renewable city

So far the cooperative has raised over £700,000 for green projects including putting solar panels on everything from theatres to sports centres, from the Bristol Folk House to the Empire Fighting Chance community boxing charity! No wonder it calls itself a "people-owned power station".

3. Islington’s tube-heated homes

The Bunhill Heat and Power Network in Islington has been leading the way in greener energy use since 2013. Its innovative power plant avoids dumping surplus heat into the atmosphere as waste. Instead it pumps it via underground pipes to heat over 850 homes and two leisure centres.

Islington is planning to use the heat from the tube to heat homes

Now Islington council is helping to take the innovation further by developing a system to make use of excess heat generated by the London Underground. You can watch a video about how it works here. Soon, hundreds more Londoners could have their homes heated by the Northern line.

4. Brighton’s Big Lemon Buses

The distinctive bright yellow vehicles are a familiar sight around the streets of Brighton and Hove. And what makes The Big Lemon special is that it is the UK’s first fleet of fully electric, zero emissions buses. They are charged overnight with power generated by solar panels on the roof of the bus depot.

Brighton's lemon buses run on solar power

The crowdfunded project is supported by Brighton & Hove City Council and also the Department of Transport. And The Big Lemon has a vision to bring electric public transport to every community in the UK by 2030, so look out for yellow buses coming your way!

How councils can help

The renewable revolution isn’t just about global trends and international treaties. It’s happening right now in our neighbourhoods. Small, innovative projects led by local green heroes are transforming the way we use energy. 

And local councils are doing great work supporting many of them with funding and guidance. But there’s something even easier they could do to help further - switch to a fully renewable supplier. Not a single one is currently running on renewable energy. There’s a great opportunity for councils to shop around, save money, and go green. Why not write to your local council and suggest it?

Help your council to go green - write and call on them to commit to switching to a renewable energy provider. Stop by the Community or tweet to tell us how you get on.