Inner-city community energy in London

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This intervention has been translated into a brief governance scenario. Take a look at From Electricity to Empowerment: Democratizing Urban Energy Systems!

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Contents

a) Basic characteristics and ambitions of the intervention

1. What is the name and the urban context (e.g. city/district) of the intervention? Please also indicate the geographical scale of the intervention (e.g. neighborhood, district, small/medium/ capital city, metropolitan area ...). [Example: “Brixton Energy in Brixton, London (neighborhood in capital city)”]

Repowering, previously called Brixton Energy, in Lambeth Borough of London, England (neighborhood in capital city).

Repowering is a cooperatively owned community energy initiative for multi-unit residential buildings. It began with one project in Brixton, and later became an organization called Repowering, which now actively creates and manages replications of the original project throughout London. It also helps support other community energy projects in London (PATHWAYS_03:4).


2. What sector(s) (alias domain/ policy field) is the intervention primarily implemented in ? [e.g. housing, mobility, energy, water, health, local economy, biodiversity, CC adaptation, etc.]

Energy. More specifically, the policy fields of (renewable) energy policy, community energy policy, and fuel poverty policy.


3. What is the intervention (i.e. situated experiment) aiming to achieve in terms of sustainability and justice? [If possible, please copy from a project website and give a reference]

Repowering is promoting the small-scale generation and use of renewable energy among communities in London. Additionally, they are facilitating energy efficiency initiatives and aiming to reduce energy poverty in their project regions while building skills and knowledge about renewable energy via (paid) internships for local youth. The key goals as stated by the group include:

  • start generating renewable energy in Brixton
  • develop opportunities for a community investment vehicle
  • increase resilience by reducing dependence on big energy companies
  • use retained profits to educate residents about energy efficiency
  • tackle fuel poverty, and
  • provide training and employment for local people.

(TT Brixton)


4. What is the interventions’ timeframe?

The formation of the original Brixton Energy group and the planning and implementation of the three projects, BES1, BES2, BES3, occurred roughly between 2011-2013 (PATHWAYS_03:6). Since BES3, Repowering London has continued to create its own and engage with others’ community solar initiatives. In May 2018, Repowering installed the world's first blockchain energy trade on a national grid.

5. By what governance mode is the intervention characterized primarily? (see Appendix 1: Three modes of governance)

Non-government led and implemented. The case is characterized by leadership of non-government actors, primarily community members. However, the Lambeth Council was very supportive (helped build connections and held regular meetings in the beginning stages, provided knowledge in energy and project management, assisted with planning permissions for the projects, financially supported projects through a small fund) (PATHWAYS_03:8). The Council and other local governmental organizations are official partners of the intervention (Repowering website_our partners).


6. Why do you consider it worthwhile to study and share experiences made in the context of this governance intervention for sustainable and just cities?[1]

This intervention is a good example of a successful initiative studied within an EU-funded research project that connects sustainability and justice in an urban setting, and demonstrates the role of local initiatives in energy transitions.

7. In which project deliverable(s) or other documents can information be found on this situated (i.e. place specific) governance intervention?

PATHWAYS’ in-depth case report on Brixton Energy (PATHWAYS_03) and the current Repowering website (Repowering website) are the main source of information. They are in the Zotero library. An interview in July 2020 with Agamemnon Otero, Co-Founder Brixton Energy complemented the information found from these sources.

b) Additional basic characteristics, links to earlier UrbanA work

8. EU Project-context of the intervention:

  • a. Has the intervention been developed or studied in the context of an (EU-funded?) project? (please name the project, its duration and include a link to the project website here).

This intervention was documented as a case study within the PATHWAYS project (2013-2016) (PATHWAYS_04). PATHWAYS explored the transition pathways to sustainable, low carbon societies through analysis of select cases using integrated assessment modelling, socio-technical transition analysis, and initiative-based learning. Initiative Based Learning (IBL) was used to study the evolution of Brixton Energy, a cooperatively owned solar energy project in London, England, and the UK’s first inner-city renewable energy co-operative. PATHWAYS studied the gestation, development, and implementation of the initial program, and analyzed its potential for replication and transfer across contexts and scales.

  • b. According to WP3’s database of approaches, which approach(es) does the intervention best fit under? Where applicable, please indicate if the intervention is found in a project that has been explicitly mentioned in the database.

Energy and Mobility solutions, Governance and participation processes, Policies and practices for inclusion of disadvantaged groups, Sustainable households. Brixton case was explicitly highlighted in (Impact) evaluation and assessment framework.

  • c. Have some project deliverables been coded in the context of UrbanA’s WP4?

No.

9. Problematization and priority:

  • a. How exactly has inequality and exclusion been problematized (by whom) in the context of this intervention?

The problematization of energy poverty, and the desire for education, employment, and projects for estates came directly from listening to community needs (Otero interview).

Inequality is most directly shown on Repowering’s website through the concept of energy poverty. Energy poverty occurs when a “household suffers from a lack of adequate energy services in the home” and includes “adequate warmth, cooling, lighting and the energy to power appliances are essential services needed to guarantee a decent standard of living and citizens' health.'’ (EU energy poverty observatory). Since energy poverty is a consequence of low income, healthy standards of living in urban dwellings can be positioned as a social inequality. A more specific component of energy poverty is fuel poverty, which refers to the inability to keep a dwelling adequately heated.

This specific problematization appears to have been raised by Brixton community members during the early stage of the first solar initiative. The team discovered, through door-to-door consultations, that the most important issue for residents was their electricity bills. Therefore, the initiative became more focused on trying to address this via the Community Energy Efficiency Fund (PATHWAYS_03:11).

Repowering also recognizes the need for skill building, employment, and engagement in the area, which faces high unemployment and low income relative to other London boroughs.

  • b. Has the achievement of justice explicitly been named as a major motivation behind the intervention?

Yes, addressing energy/fuel poverty and increasing opportunity in the neighbourhood is a strong and explicit motivator behind the intervention, as seen in the intervention’s goals (Q3).

Drivers of injustices Based on WP4 coding Based on own assessment
1. Exclusive access to the benefits of sustainability infrastructure x
2. Material and livelihood inequalities x
3. Racialized or ethnically exclusionary urbanization x
4. Uneven and exclusionary urban intensification and regeneration
5. Uneven environmental health and pollution patterns
6. Unfit institutional structures
7. Limited citizen participation in urban planning
8. Lack of effective knowledge brokerage and stewardship opportunities x
9. Unquestioned Neoliberal growth and austerity urbanism
10. Weak(ened) civil society

c) Actor constellations

10. Who initiated the intervention?

It was born out of a Transition Town initiative, TT Brixton, in 2007. There was a specific working group on ‘Buildings and Energy’ whose members (locals with an interest and knowledge about renewable energy) began to meet and discuss possibilities of a local solar project (PATHWAYS_03:8).

11. Who are the envisioned benefiters of the intervention? (both at a local level and higher, if applicable)

The benefits are concentrated in the local community, for any individual who wishes to be involved in the project (either by being a shareholder, recipient of community energy efficiency funds, or a youth employed by the project). However, it could be argued that there are larger scale benefits of renewable energy generation regarding climate change mitigation. Additionally, since the intervention has gained attention from, and is working directly with (up to) national-level policy makers, the benefits could be even more widespread, if their influence enables more similar projects.

12. Who else is (going to be) involved in the intervention, and what was/is their main role?

Actor types[2] Yes Actor name and role[3]
Academic organizations
Religious organizations
Civil society organizations
Hybrid/ 3rd sector organizations
Platforms
NGOs
Social movements
Political parties
Media
Unions
Social entreprises x Transition Town Brixton (community interest company, provided initial platform for the intervention),

Core Brixton Energy team, later the Repowering team (spearheading the intervention, now performing administrative and other organizational tasks)

For profit entreprises x Simmons & Simmons (legal advice)

HSBC (tax help) Southern Solar (installation assistance)

Local/regional government x Lambeth Council’s sustainability unit (Running the Low Carbon Zone group)
Regional organizations x Various housing boards (i.e. United Residents Housing and the Loughborough Estate Management Board were consulted with, gave permission for the projects )
National government x Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (formerly Dpt. Energy and Climate Change), gave Repowering funding from the DECC’s Community Energy Peer Mentoring Fund

Otero was involved in writing national community energy policy

Supranational government
International networks
Other initiatives x Community members (each project is run by a separate community benefit society),

Community non members (participate in outreach events, receive energy advice etc. even if they are not a shareholder) Other local community groups (helped form the intervention, collaborate with it) Carbon Leapfrog Charity (enabled initial networking with sustainability professionals)

13. Which particular interactions among various stakeholders (stakeholder configurations) were crucial in enabling the intervention to emerge successfully? This could include direct or indirect impacts on interventions.

Enabling configurations for community renewable energy (Stakeholders include the federal government):

The beginning of the UK’s Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) program in 2010 created a more friendly environment to small-scale, community-based renewables. This is an indirect impact.

Enabling configurations for community engagement/collaboration (Stakeholders include Lambeth Council and the Brixton team/Repowering):

The local government, Lambeth Council, which had a small group running a Low Carbon Zone, served as an intermediary organization in the beginning, which helped the team organize themselves and contact other relevant groups. The enabling configuration is the connectedness of this Council to various groups in the area. However, this group was small and had minimal capacity.

14. To what extent, in what form and at what stages have citizens participated in the shaping of the intervention?

Citizens have been the founders and drivers of the intervention from the very beginning. The intervention’s cooperative structure relies upon community engagement in order to function (financial investment, regular meetings, decision-making etc.) and the intervention engages with a wider community base in order to address energy poverty and provide opportunities for employment and learning (Repowering website_home).

15. How are responsibilities and/or decision-making power distributed among actors?

Each project (BES1, 2, 3) is run by a separate cooperative. Repowering is a community benefit society where decision-making power is horizontally distributed and participatory: “The society is run by its members and a board of directors who come from the local community. Governance of the society is truly democratic as each member has one vote, regardless of the amount they invest” (Repowering website_our model). The larger-picture strategic operations of Repowering and its various projects are run by a full staff team.

16. Exclusion:

  • a. Which stakeholders or social groups were excluded (at which stages)?

This intervention operates under an inclusive model, since it is a community benefit society, and it reinvests in and engages with the community. However, those who could not afford to invest in the projects would at least be excluded from their financial return.

  • b. Is there any indication why this may have happened? With what outcomes? Has anything been done to overcome such exclusions?

It is necessary to raise capital in order to finance the projects, so this can have exclusionary effects. An impact of this possible exclusion is that only those who are financially capable of investing in the projects are able to receive their benefits (return on investment) and have a formal say (vote) about them. However, the threshold investment to be a member is relatively low (investment pledges for current projects begin at £50), and it is less expensive for a resident to invest than an outsider, so that barrier may not be unsurpassable. Also, the intervention has community workshops and open general meetings, which reduces exclusion. Therefore, exclusion is minimal overall due to open project meetings and community initiatives for those that do not have the means to invest.

d) Enabling conditions for the implementation of the intervention

17. What circumstances or events are reported to have triggered the intervention? (In what ways?)

As mentioned, the Transition Town Brixton initiative, which had a specific working group on buildings and energy, triggered the formation of the original community group, ‘Brixton Energy’. There are also a set of broader context conditions which may have triggered the intervention, with the establishment of the FIT scheme likely being influential.

18. Are particular substantive (multi-level) governmental policies considered to be highly influential in the genesis and shaping of the intervention? (If easily possible, please specify the policy, the policy field and the governance level mainly addressed, and characterize it along Appendix 2: Policy typology)

Municipal level: Various planning and licensing requirements.

National Economic policies: the UK’s Feed-In-Tariff program (enacted in 2010 and cancelled in 2019) was essential for ensuring investor security and therefore the financial viability of the projects.

National Regulatory policies: UK's Fuel Poverty Strategy, UK’s Community Energy Strategy, The Energy Act 2013 (implements the RE Directive), Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000, Low Carbon Transition Plan 2009

European Regulatory policies: European Union Renewable Energy Directive 2009, requiring member states to fulfill at least 20% of their total energy needs with renewables by 2020, listed Feed-In-Tariff schemes (such as the one that supported Brixton Energy) as a type of support scheme that could help achieve this target.

Note that only the FIT and the Low Carbon Transition Plan was explicitly mentioned in the documentation (PATHWAYS_03).


19. What constitutional responsibilities and rules does the intervention build upon? In other words, what rights, powers, and/or responsibilities, does the country's constitution (in a broad sense) award municipalities, states, utilities, NGOs, citizens etc. and how does this impact the intervention?

There is no single UK constitution, rather a collection of statutes, case law, and other decisions. Under UK law, London is the only city with its own assembly (Greater London Authority Act 1999). Its powers, functions, funding, and responsibilities are determined by laws passed by Parliament. The London Assembly (including Lambeth borough) has limited power over transport, environment, and housing, among others. Lambeth Council’s authority/responsibility to regulate renewable energy projects may be linked with the constitutional powers and responsibilities given to the London Assembly, however more in-depth research is needed to determine this.

20. According to project material/and or interviews, in what ways have particularities of (local) political culture influenced the character and success of the intervention? (i.e. trust in political institutions, citizens’ will to interact with policy makers and vice versa, traditions of cooperation etc.)

Out of necessity, project proponents interacted a great deal with both local and national governments. According to Otero, relations with the Local Lambeth Council and the national authorities were tough and frustrating, but necessary in order for the intervention to function.

Although the Council’s sustainability unit was supportive, it was under-funded and had limited capacity: "They [Council] put good ideas and engaged people in a tower, and locked them up and we basically found our way to the crevices and dug away with our fingernails to get through the door. It was really tough." Meanwhile, project proponents’ perception of national government was decidedly less positive. The national policy landscape surrounding community energy was initially non-existent, so Otero helped write several national policies: “They put us on every board you could imagine, they gave us MBEs, and then changed their minds! I wrote policy for all three governments, they would listen and say yes yes yes, and then pull the teeth out of it that held the whole thing together, put the pretty pictures that we got on there, then launch it and then not give anybody anything.” Additionally, the national government was seen as somewhat of an adversary, since it made several unfavourable policy changes (FIT reduction than cancellation, cancellation of the seed enterprise investment scheme, and unfavourable re-definition of cooperatives).

These views of and interactions with both national and local governments may have ultimately supported the intervention in an unexpected way: “Since the policy was so unstable, we had to continuously look for new innovation. The only reason why we came up with all these innovations is because I wasn't going to go out like that! What, because the government changes, and everything is changing, I'm going to roll over and die? No. You gotta come up with better solutions.” (Otero interview)

21. What are financial arrangements that support the intervention?

The intervention is financed by a cooperative business model. Community members buy shares in the cooperative, which then funds the purchase and installation of renewable energy assets. The returns from these assets (aka from generating energy) are given back to the shareholders, and/or invested in a community fund (for community energy projects). (Repowering website_our model)

The FIT program was a significant contributor to the financial viability of the projects in this intervention. It provided a guaranteed return on investment for a period of 20 years, which then made investing more attractive. While current projects are not impacted by the FIT phase-out, it will force Repowering to find other funding sources to rely on (PATHWAYS_03:16). Some examples, from BE1 and 3 project manager, Andre Pinho: “ 1) finding seed money through different funding schemes and grants, knowing that these will eventually dry up; or 2) finding councils and local initiatives with money to invest in Repowering London’s expertise.” (PATHWAYS_03:16) The intervention has also received funding from various sources, such as the previously mentioned Community Energy Peer Mentoring Fund.

22. Have any of the above conditions changed within the intervention’s timeframe, which have (significantly) influenced it in a positive or negative way?

As mentioned, the FIT program was phased out rapidly and then cancelled, which makes the financing scheme for future projects less viable (since the export tariff and feed-in tariff won’t exist). Other regulatory supports (e.g. seed investment scheme) were also cancelled. Therefore many of the initial enabling conditions for the intervention no longer exist.

Note: Certain contexts, which provide opportunities to learn from other relevant experiences, may also be a supportive framework condition. Please see section h, questions 26 + 30 on learning context.

e) Obstacles to successful intervention implementation

23. What obstacles to implementing the intervention (both generally, and in this particular context) have been identified, relating to:

  • a. Regulatory framework

The volatility and eventual cancellation of the national FIT program was a central challenge for the intervention (PATHWAYS_03:16) (see part d). Same with the seed investment scheme cancellation and the re-definition of cooperative such that Repowering was required to identify as a Community Benefit Society instead. Local government regulations (like required planning permissions) were also reported to be an obstacle (PATHWAYS_03:10).

  • b. Legitimacy

Legitimacy “Obstacle - legitimacy” This is a novel intervention in a (low income) inner-city context and needed to be proven in order to be seen as a legitimate business model. The newness created investor uncertainty, see part d. Gaining planning permission for the installations from local councils required convincing them that they were a good idea, without any proof, for BES1 (PATHWAYS_03:17).

  • c. Public awareness

A rapidly changing national political landscape reduced trust in federal support for interventions like Repowering, and consequently reduced the faith of local authorities in Brixton’s success. See part d. Engaging the community also proved difficult at first, since the Repowering team had limited experience with it (PATHWAYS_03:10).

  • d. Finances

One notable obstacle was the difficulty raising funds (£58,000) for BES1 from community members. Since it was a new project, with no track record, individuals were hesitant to invest. Additionally, while many made pledges, this proved not to be a reliable indicator of actual financial support. Once BES1 was established, it was easier to find investors for the others because the community had more trust in the organization and had seen an instance of success (PATHWAYS_03:13). Another financial obstacle was the need to work quickly to meet deadlines imposed by the FIT program. The FIT program drastically lowered its tariff rates in early 2012, so Brixton rushed to accredit BES1 under the scheme before this happened. Otherwise, the project would have been guaranteed much lower returns over its 20 year lifetime (PATHWAYS_03:13). In addition, there are regulatory barriers to the community energy model because the current energy framework requires the projects to sell their energy to big suppliers at wholesale costs. Becoming a licensed independent energy supplier themselves so that they could sell directly to customers is very costly (PATHWAYS_03:19).

  • e. Others (please name)

Other identified barriers included navigating “the legal aspects of the scheme” and “defining the company structure and statutes” (PATHWAYS_03:10).

f) (Institutional) Work done to overcome obstacles

24. What has been done by each central actor group to overcome which particular obstacles in the way of successfully implementing the intervention? (this may include institutional Work - maintaining, disrupting, and creating new rules, applying to both formal laws/regulations and informal norms and expectations.)

Name of obstacle What work was/is being done to overcome this obstacle and by what actor groups?
1. Unstable/cancelled FIT program Some reported options include: Repowering looking for private partners to invest in community projects, and also applying for Repowering to become a licensed electricity provider (PATHWAYS_03:16). There is also a recent pilot project for a peer-to-peer energy trading system in Brixton to see how decentralized energy production could be financially viable in a post FIT landscape (Peer-to-peer Energy Trading in Brixton).
2. Initial difficulty gaining trust and navigating planning permissions from local council, stemmed from a lack of proof of concept, creating legitimacy concerns Work was done to improve relations/trust with Lambeth council, and Lambeth council helped them navigate through planning permissions. “The main hurdle is often convincing the council’s corporate risk and legal teams. This is best overcome by demonstrating strong fundamentals for a project: financial acumen, social deliverables and resident support. Commitments to social cohesion, education, and reducing fuel poverty are mandated in every political party. Showing that [a] project helps the council to address these issues can bring council support and partnership” (Otero interview Brixton Energy).

They also proved that the business model was viable with BES1: “The greater local exposure to the technology along with Repowering’s positive reputation and credibility through earlier demonstrations further benefited local acceptance and funding for the projects.” (PATHWAYS_03:18)

3. Community engagement They improved over time by making efforts to listen to local needs and priorities, and got support from the experienced Transition Town group (PATHWAYS_03:11). Engaging residents (youth) with solar panel-making workshops increased engagement with the overall project. Offering payment for their internship program increased participation. It was also essential to engage with "Estate Mamas", middle aged women who lived there and were engaged in the community. "By supporting them, we could count on them with our projects and provide for the community. That is the only thing I have really learned and they were my greatest teachers." (Otero interview)

g) Reported outcomes

25. What are reported outcomes of the intervention? This may include economic outcomes, political outcomes, ability to reach sustainability and justice targets, etc.

The initiative has resulted in economic gains for the community, although their extent/significance is not clear. These include a 3% return on investment (mainly financed by the FIT program), hiring locals to assist with installations, and training young people in paid internship positions (Repowering website). The general objectives of the initiative regarding sustainability, as listed in Q1, were to a) start generating renewable energy in Brixton, b) increase resilience by reducing dependence on big energy companies, and c) use retained profits to educate residents about energy efficiency. To date, Repowering has made progress towards these goals and achieved the following: 532kWp of installed solar capacity, 447,358 kWh electricity generated annually, avoided 114 tonnes of GHG emissions annually, and has raised £154,500 for communities to spend on related energy initiatives like efficiency measures (Repowering website_home). Objectives regarding inequality include a) tackling fuel poverty, and b), providing training and employment for local people. Progress on these general objectives is not easily measurable, however Repowering has thus far, engaged 123 paid interns and employed a handful of locals for the installation of each project. It is unclear what percentage of Repowering’s full time staff are local. The community energy fund amount of £154,500 will have gone towards reducing energy poverty, with unknown (but expectedly positive) impacts.

h) Learning involved in establishing the intervention

Please fill in any information on social learning that has occured in this intervention (conceptualized here as “Learning context, content, and process” in line with the FOODLINKS project)[4]. Where possible, please differentiate your response into learning done by specific actor groups.

Learning context

(i.e. the configuration and social environment enabling the learning process)

26. According to the TRANSIT project’s four mechanisms for empowerment – i. funding; ii. legitimacy; iii. knowledge sharing, learning, and peer support; or iv. visibility and identity – please briefly describe the following, and indicate where the intervention has been developed or supported as part of which formal collaborations, networks or projects:

  • a. any previous experiences in the same urban context (e.g. city…) that the intervention is (reportedly) building upon? This could include any relevant experiences in the same or another sector.

BES1 was the first intervention of its kind (inner-city renewable energy cooperative) in London (PATHWAYS_03:23). The intervention built off of the Transition Town movement/network, specifically Transition Town Brixton. The intervention also benefited from various community initiatives: Lambeth Council’s Green Community Champions initiative (iv: visibility and identity by providing a platform for Brixton Energy to hold meetings and build connections) (PATHWAYS_03:8), and the Hyde Farm Climate Action Network in London (reported as “establishing links with other sustainability initiatives”) (PATHWAYS_03:9). However, since it was a unique intervention, most specific learning was up to the proponents: "It wasn't like we got an answer from other people and they helped us out. It was the other way around. We trail-blazed the whole sector." (Otero interview)

  • b. any inter-city partnerships, or transfers from experiences elsewhere that have (reportedly) been important in the emergence of this intervention?

In its development, Brixton Energy was reportedly advised by other successful models of small-scale community renewable energy, i.e. Ovesco in Sussex. The initiative’s location (inner-city) and business model were unique, but they were still able to benefit from practical advice (mechanism iii. knowledge sharing, learning, and peer support) (PATHWAYS_03:8). However, according to Otero, this advice was minimal and not extremely helpful. Rather, an individual from another company shared a template of how to set up community energy and introduced proponents to other community energy groups in a series of three meetings. However, most learning came directly from listening to community members and through interactions with specific individuals at Lambeth council’s sustainability unit (Otero interview).

Learning content

27. Has any acquired knowledge (e.g. technical knowledge, awareness of local political procedures etc.) been reported as particularly helpful to this intervention?

  • a. from previous experiences in the same urban context

Nothing has been reported on this regarding experiences outside of the intervention, however, BES2 and BES3, and later projects have all been at least partial replications of BES1 and each other. They used accumulated experience to form a systematic project design and management process, which reduced trial and error and sped up the process for later projects. Learning which promoted replicability reportedly included both hard skills, like how to handle the technology, to soft skills, such as how to work effectively with the local council to speed up permitting processes, and how to engage with community members (PATHWAYS_03:18).

  • b. from inter-city partnerships, or transfers from experiences elsewhere

No reports on specific knowledge gained from peer-to-peer learning with Ovesco and other community energy projects , other than “practical advice” (PATHWAYS_3:10). As Otero indicated, there was not too much peer learning due to the project’s trailblazing nature.

  • c. from other knowledge gathering/research

Some reported areas of learning during the implementation of BES1 included: project management and legal issues, energy and financial projections, and supplier contacts (PATHWAYS_03:9). Other important learning experiences included understanding the community members’ priorities and interests (for example, door-to-door campaigns revealed that reducing electricity bill costs was important) and that the key to community engagement was the co-production of ideas such that residents felt involved and empowered (PATHWAYS_03:11).

Learning process

28. In what ways has the intervention been adapted to specific circumstances of the targeted urban context based on the learned content reported in question 27?

According to the PATHWAYS documentation, Repowering reportedly adapted the model of previous community energy initiatives in the UK to consider its inner-city location and a different financial model (PATHWAYS_3:10). However, Otero reported that the project was entirely unique, and therefore not adapted to the circumstances but entirely built from the bottom up to suit them.

29. Based on your answers to question 24, how has overcoming obstacles (reportedly) contributed to the learning process?

Overcoming (or currently handling) obstacles such as the FIT program, via experimenting with new business models such as peer-to-peer trading, highlights the need to be adaptive and resilient in the face of national policy instability. Gaining trust, familiarity, and legitimacy with the community and local government likely helped speed up the learning and implementation process per replicated project (the first project reportedly took 8-9 months, the second 3 months, and the third 1 month (PATHWAYS_3:18)).

30. Please list any tools that enabled the learning process (e.g. various Knowledge Brokerage Activities from pg. 24 of FOODLINK’s Deliverable 7.1 - linked in footnote)[5] and the actors involved in using them.

No specific tools were used, however the team has regular meetings and structures for reflection and learning. The team has Monday meetings where they discuss issues, raise questions, and everyone has three minutes to explain what they're doing and highlight any problems they're having, whether it is a systemic issue or a personal team issue. “This way we can lance any boils together once a week.” Then monthly, they do a deep dive to go into any problem areas. Then the volunteer directors will come in and scrutinize any issues that have been raised and spend a couple days working through them (Otero interview).

i) Learning involved in establishing interventions elsewhere (transferability)

31. Suggestions regarding transferability.

  • a. Have any suggestions been made about a replicability, scaleability or transferability of the intervention? [e.g. in the documentation of the intervention in a project or the press? Links would be perfect]

Yes, replicability has been central to the intervention, since BES2 and BES3, and later projects have all been at least partial replications of BES1 and each other (PATHWAYS_03:18). Suggestions have also been made by the operators of the peer-to-peer trading pilot (EDF Energy and University College London) that the new business model could be scaled up in the UK and in Colombia (Future energy systems; Transactive energy).

  • b. Transferability to what kind of contexts has been suggested?

The projects have all been replicated in Lambeth borough, London. Additionally, the intention of forming Repowering out of the Brixton Energy initiative was to be able to replicate and scale up the community energy solutions. It currently supports similar projects throughout London (PATHWAYS_03:10). The newer peer-to-peer model is seen as transferable to communities in dense urban areas worldwide (Future energy systems) .

  • c. Who has made the claims?

Project proponents, the press, and actors in the peer-to-peer pilot.

  • d. What limits to transferability to broader contexts have been discussed?

As of 2014: “Repowering believes that the viable penetration of community energy (to its estimated potential of powering 1 million homes in the UK by 2020 (DECC, 2014) will require professionalization; an operating body that can develop at a larger scale; and the streamlining of processes (both community and energy aspects)” (PATHWAYS_03:16). From this, limits to transferability could be: a) a lack of a more powerful organizational body to coordinate upscaling, and b) learning/implementation processes are still too experimental/messy. The latter of these two limits may have been more recently overcome, since the model has been replicated more times in a variety of contexts within London.

32. In what forms has the learning process, including stories of overcoming obstacles, been recorded for, and/or made accessible to city makers also from elsewhere?[6]

PATHWAYS’ case study report of Brixton had a section called “Replication, learning, and scaling up”. It contained details on how the model was replicated into many projects, and how accumulated learning (about soft and hard project aspects) contributed towards a more systematic process each time. These learning processes were not described in depth.

Regarding how Repowering has made its experience accessible to citymakers, it was very involved in local and national politics - visited by federal energy and climate change ministers and “Through its visibility and praised success, Repowering London has gained access to relevant decision-making processes both at local and national levels. Besides its operational relationship with various councils, Repowering London members have regularly been consulted on national debates about community energy, which additionally promoted urban community energy in the political sphere …” (PATHWAYS_03:16). Repowering has also historically been involved in the Dept. of Energy and Climate Change’s Community Energy Contact Group, which aimed to identify barriers and solutions for community energy (PATHWAYS_03:16). However, recall that Otero’s reported experience participating in policy writing was frustrating and that the final policy outcomes were not satisfactory.

Repowering also offers its professional services to facilitate other community energy projects (via legal, structural, financial, marketing base to co-produce similar initiatives with community groups), however: “In terms of collective learning and information sharing, there is an on-going debate within Repowering about what the initiative is happy to open-source, hence share openly and freely, and what is considered to be worth protecting and retaining as exclusive expertise (Pinho, Interview)” (PATHWAYS_03:19).

33. Have any signs of collaboration, support, or inspiration already been reported between actors involved in this intervention and others that follow its example? (e.g. in “follower cities”?)

Yes, see Q31a. All documented “replications” or cases of support (or perhaps better called “iterations of various community energy projects”) were in the same urban context (inner-city London neighbourhoods). However, the intervention has gotten a lot of good press and political recognition (PATHWAYS_03:16), and so it has likely inspired other projects. In addition to their own projects, “Repowering has been acting as ‘mentor’ for a number community groups across London eager to replicate Brixton energy’s model in their local areas (Rosendale Energy, Streatham Power, Vauxhall Energy, Hackney Energy and En10ergy)” (PATHWAYS_03:18).

j) Structural learning

34. Has the intervention influenced higher-level governance arrangements such that sustainability and justice are considered (together) in a more durable, structural way? In other words, are there any observations about more structural, long-term changes as a result of the intervention?

  • For example: new programs run by local councils, new modes of citizen participation, new mediating bodies
  • Is there other evidence that the project has contributed to enhancing sustainable and just governance in cities in a general sense?

There is no strong evidence for durable structural learning. As mentioned, project proponents participated in creating community energy policy, which was "toothless" according to Otero, but may have generally contributed to a national discussion about sustainability and justice. Additionally, Repowering proponents created an intermediary policy body called Community Energy England.

Otherwise, the experiences from Repowering are leading into new initiatives like the Energy Garden (https://www.energygarden.org.uk/), which aims to integrate with more actors and in inter-city partnerships. (Otero interview)

k) Reflections on important governance concepts

35. What other aspects of governance, that were not covered above, are important to highlight, too?

The qualities and capabilities of the core Repowering team were particular enabling factors, since they were highly knowledgeable about renewable energy, passionate, and motivated (PATHWAYS_03:8). These personal assets, along with a constructive team dynamic, enabled the intervention to successfully emerge. As explained by Otero: "Entrepreneurs are a very specific breed of people, who deal with loss and failure regularly and use it as fuel for success. They will tell you, that until you have lost, you will never succeed. And the successes you will have prior to losing are not worth the success. The only way to change a sector is to be willing to fail, to pivot, and to change throughout."

36. From your perspective as a researcher, which word or phrase characterizes this governance intervention most concisely? (Please attach your name to the characterization) In other words, what is the biggest takeaway from this intervention about governance arrangements?

Using accumulated experience, partnerships and community enthusiasm to achieve replication and upscaling aspirations amidst national policy instability.

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Appendix 1: Three modes of governance

(from NATURVATION project)

NATURVATION's NBS-Atlas distinguishes three categories of governance arrangements (dubbed "management set-ups":

  • Government-led (Gov)
  • Co-governance or hybrid governance (mix of responsibilities between government and non-government actors) (c/h)
  • Led by non-government actors (NGO)

Alternatively or additionally, the following four modes of governing (as distinguished also by Bulkeley/Kern 2006 and Zvolska et al. 2019) could be used as a typology: Castan Broto/ Bulkeley 2013:95

  1. Self-governing, intervening in the management of local authority operations to ‘‘lead by example’’;
  2. Provision, greening infrastructure and consumer services provided by different authorities;
  3. Regulations, enforcing new laws, planning regulations, building codes, etc.; and
  4. Enabling, supporting initiatives led by other actors through information and resource provision and partnerships”

Appendix 2: Policy typology

(from NATURVATION project)

Policy typology Description Examples
Regulatory (administrative, command-and-control) Mandatory fulfillment of certain requirements by targeted actors Legislations, regulations, laws, directives, etc.
Economic (financial, market-based) Financial (dis)incentives to trigger change by providing (new) favourable (or unfavourable) economic conditions for targeted actors Positive incentive include subsidies, soft loans, tax allowance and procurments. Negative incentives are taxes, fees and charges.
Informative (educational) They aim at providing information or knowledge to target actors in order to increase awareness and support informed decision-making accomplish or prevent social change Information and awareness raising campaigns, informative leaflets, advertisements in different media.
Voluntary Commitment and/or actions beyond legal requirements, undertaken by private actors and/or non-governmental organisations. Voluntary actions and agreements.


test tableau

  1. Background to this question: Our four main criteria for selecting particular governance interventions and develop rich descriptions of them were: A) The intervention has been studied in a specific urban context (e.g. city), B) this context is located in Europe (and, preferably, the study was EU-funded), C) the intervention considers to a large extent sustainability AND justice (at least implicitly), and D) it is well-documented, ideally including assumptions or even critical reflections on enablers and barriers to implementation and on transferability (i.e. ‘de-contextualizability’). Additionally, we aimed at a diverse portfolio of domains (see Q2.) and governance modes (see Q5): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nCPcUd-COIQ1MsBjir20_F1CBbnSu6HqKH9nNLshiVQ/edit?usp=sharing.
  2. Actor types according to TRANSIT’s Critical Turning Point Database, http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/about-ctps-in-tsi-processes.
  3. If easily possible mention sources for your association of roles.
  4. Deliverable 7.1 Synthesis Report on results from Monitoring and Evaluation (p.14) : http://www.foodlinkscommunity.net/fileadmin/documents_organicresearch/foodlinks/publications/karner-etal-d-7-1.pdf .
  5. http://www.foodlinkscommunity.net/fileadmin/documents_organicresearch/foodlinks/publications/karner-etal-d-7-1.pdf .
  6. Feel free to include learning that has been made available through EU project documentation, intervention initiatives, or other channels. In addition to the forms in which the learning process has been shared with others, please indicate whether the learning process that’s being shared has been recorded in a self-critical/reflexive way.