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Amy Reid: Pioneering the community heat pump revolution with CREW Energy

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We’re CREW Energy – a Wandsworth- and Merton-based community energy co-operative delivering low-carbon solutions, energy advice and community outreach to south-west London. It was formed in 2014 by a group of former Friends of the Earth members who wanted to create a more equitable, cleaner energy system and were frustrated by lack of leadership from government and large energy companies. Having undertaken successful low-carbon and fuel poverty alleviation projects in Wandsworth, Merton and Islington since 2017 – saving a combined annual total of 50 tonnes of CO2e – we are now pleased to hold our very first share offer!

CREW is aiming to raise £50,000 throughout January 2021 to fund a renewable heat project in south-west London with our longstanding partners, Devas Club. Shareholders will entirely fund the cost of 4 community-owned heat pumps to be installed at the youth club and, in return, will get a targeted 3% return on their investment. Not only will these pumps generate huge energy savings in the building – £962 per year in fact – they will reduce carbon emissions in the area by 17 tonnes CO2e annually and provide CREW with a means of hosting yet more climate outreach and education across Wandsworth, Merton and Lambeth.

A community hub with a clear climate goal

The project is very much community focused in an institution that understands the value of climate education and leadership; Devas Club is an important centre of the community in Battersea, hosting a range of activities. Primarily it is a youth centre offering sports, music dance, theatre and homework clubs for local youths aged 8-19. Devas also host inclusion lunches for the elderly and provide office space for local social enterprises who are, in turn, providing services to our local community.

CREW Energy has been working closely with the club since 2018 and this will be our third intervention with them to date. So far, we have successfully secured grant funding to achieve a community energy first by installing LED lighting and a building management system to cut the club’s energy usage by 25% annually. This was followed by additional energy efficiency measures such as secondary glazing, more LED lighting, destratifiers and a heat transfer solution. This third heat pump phase, funded by the community share offer, will truly put Devas Club on the path to sustainability and way beyond their plan to reduce carbon emissions by 5% over three years.

 “The decarbonisation of our heating will greatly reduce our CO2 emissions and save us money. Equally importantly, it will help us engage with our young members and show that change is possible in the face of the climate emergency.” – Johnny Devas, Devas Club Director

A challenging but pivotal year for a share offer

While community share offers are an established means of funding community energy, ours is the first of its kind in London to focus on renewable heat! Luckily for us, heat pumps have been a hot topic in 2020 through the Government’s Green Homes Grant and the so-called Green Plan, where they were cited as a key element in the UK’s race to net zero by 2050. This certainly made it easier to shout about the green power of the mighty heat pump.

However, in the midst of a pandemic, it sometimes feels like there is, understandably, little room in people’s newsfeeds for a community project. This means we’ve had to work extremely hard all year to not only combat lockdown delays in surveying the building and quoting for the heat pumps, but also to navigate the fast-paced news sphere (not to mention launching at Christmas time and the Brexit deadline) in an entirely digital campaign!

We couldn’t have done it without the invaluable support of our fellow community energy groups such as SELCE, Brixton Energy, BHESCo and Power Up North London who have advised and encouraged us along the way. We hope this share offer will be the first of many.

Find out more about investing in CREW Energy’s community share offer here.

Amy is a Non-Executive Director and Communications Lead for CREW Energy who has been volunteering in the Community Energy sphere since January 2019. She is passionate about the environment, sustainability and social justice, using her time to manage all things CREW comms, Eco Action games sessions and as a Spanish energy café advisor for the Latin American community.

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