Image: Power Up North London
On November 19th, at the Save Money, Save Carbon event, discussions spanned issues such as carbon allowances to the differences between ‘clean’ and ‘renewable’ energy (question: how clean is a renewable source of energy if it involves mining from pristine areas at the depth of the oceans or digging for minerals and cobalt?)
Adam Hardy is founder of local group Eco Counts. “We want to encourage each other to stick at actions,” said Hardy. “People talk about climate action but often find it hard to translate that into their own lives, without community. The point of EcoCounts is to create that community so that difficult decisions become easier. Because, sometimes, it is difficult - for example, to say I’m not going to take that flight and look for an alternative instead.”
Via EcoCounts, people can keep it in touch with each other and map progress. “We want to record everything we do, starting with our carbon footprint, how much gas and energy we use, etc,” said Hardy. “Slowly, as we get more people interested, we’ll add transport and shopping.”
“A lot of the stuff is obvious - like not driving as much, buying electric, trying not to fly or even just going one leg by train and then fly back,” says Hardy. “But even how your furniture is arranged makes a difference. If the sofa is in front of the radiator, it just heats up the back of the sofa rather than the room.”
Elaine Trimble is an economist and urban planner with 20-years of experience enabling cities to become more sustainable. She is also co-founder of non profit community group Cally Energy - and a new app, Yoyu. Yoyu measures the carbon intensity of the UK grid so that users can schedule the use of household machines at times when carbon intensity is lowest. “We translate national grid data in a format that people can relate to. Then users can add actions to see how much carbon they’ve saved.”
Carbon intensity varies from region to region, depending on external factors “There are times when they turn off wind because the grid can’t take any more; there are no batteries to store the energy. Building more batteries is going to cost millions - but this country has 20 million households which could act like batteries [for renewable energy] if we use them properly.” With Yoyu, the amount of energy you use doesn’t change but [because it’s renewable], emissions go down. The app will also show you how many grams of carbon you have saved.
Finally, Tanuja Pandit is director of community energy group Power Up North London. Power Up installs renewable tech such as renewable heat, rooftop solar panels and renewable heat like heat pumps into community buildings. The group is a community benefit society with members who are also shareholders and also offers energy efficiency advice to those who might be in fuel poverty. “This can range from looking for drafts, looking for lower energy lightbulbs, energy efficient actions such as turning down thermostats and not running tumble driers."
The group works with Think and Do Camden. “They’ve set up an energy savers club sharing a tip a day. I’ve been doing a project called light fantastic, working with two local residents, putting led bulbs in 74 households, not just a case of removing old lightbulbs. From those households, we estimate we’ve saved 2.6 tonnes of carbon a year, from the energy savings, about £40 a household a year.”
“The problem is funding,” she continues. “We have is that a lot of people in fuel poverty who are considered hard to reach. They’re Bengali, they don’t trust people to come to their door. We knocked on 137 doors, and 74 households are part of this event after running a pilot project in about 20 households, funded by our community energy fund. it takes effort, engagement, electrification, materials but the end result has been great and I hope we can replicate it.”