Connie Muir: Croydon Community Energy
We spoke to Connie this International Women’s Day about her journey from working in the energy sector to founding and running a renewable energy cooperative.
My name is Connie Muir. I'm based in Croydon, in South London, and I'm the founder of Croydon Community Energy. We are a renewable energy not-for-profit cooperative with a mission to implement renewable energy generation and low carbon technologies within Croydon. The aim is to cut greenhouse emissions and energy bills, driven by community ownership and empowerment.
The idea for CCE started when I was looking for ways to combine my professional experience working in the energy sector over the past six years, with my climate activism. I came across the concept of community energy, which is where local people deliver community led renewable energy projects and generally raise the funds through community share offers, allowing anyone to invest and have a say in the project.
CCE plays a role in tackling climate change on a local level, not just through reducing the carbon emissions of community buildings, but also through behavioural change and educating people how to live more sustainably. We are hoping our projects will have a ripple effect through the community, and we are also working with the local council and MPs to bring more renewable energy into the borough.
So far, we're powered by volunteers and grants such as the London Community Energy Fund and the Royal London Change Makers Programme. Croydon Council also plays a huge role in helping us achieve our goals: not only can they give us access to their council-owned schools and buildings, but they have such a huge reach that helps us to promote our projects when fundraising. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship because our work helps them meet their own net zero targets. It gives me such joy to see more and more sites wanting to make a switch to renewable energy and becoming more conscious about where energy comes from, not just to save money, but for the planet too.
CCE's biggest achievement so far has definitely been securing over £35,000 of funding in just over a year. With only volunteer power, our biggest challenge is balancing our day jobs, families and other commitments with the amount of work needed to get the projects off the ground. We're always looking for people who can give time and skills to the group.
My biggest tip for women wanting to start a renewable energy project in their local community is to reach out to the amazing networks and support hubs that already exist. For example, I couldn't have founded CCE without the help of Community Energy London and Community Energy England, plus the other amazing community energy groups who gave me advice and shared lessons learned. It's a huge amount of work, but it's so worth it. Anyone can support their local community energy group by giving time, skills and even donating money and investing in the projects.
Croydon Community Energy is currently crowdfunding to help pay for marketing support. Find out more and contribute to the campaign.