London's solar street thrives on people power – Reuters

LONDON, June 15 (Reuters) – Sick of eye-watering energy bills and keen to do what they can to fend off global warming, two artists have shown their north London neighbours that collectively they have the power to tackle both problems.
After raising 113,000 pounds ($141,000), partly through crowd-funding publicised by sleeping on their roof for three cold, winter weeks, artist couple Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell have arranged for solar panels to be installed on dozens of houses on their street.
"If you can create an offer where you actually are saying: 'Look, let's just bypass a broken political system and let's do something directly ourselves together,' that's quite an attractive offer to make to people," said Edelstyn. Together with Powell, he spent a year convincing neighbours to join the project.
In Waltham Forest, the London borough where the artist couple lives, fuel poverty – meaning households cannot afford to keep their homes at an adequate temperature – is at the third highest level in the capital.
That makes the project particularly valuable for its residents, many of whom live in Victorian-era housing that can be poorly insulated and use more energy.
Ejaz Hussein, who has lived on the street for 45 years, said he was "quite delighted" by the project that he estimates will cut his electricity bill by 70%.
"First of all, it's good for the environment. And second thing, I can't afford electricity anymore," the father of two said. "So that will really help as I'm struggling."
Households powered by solar panel-derived electricity draw less power from the national grid, cutting energy bills, and they can also sell any excess energy back.
Industry analysts say community projects tend to be more efficient than individual solar installations as costs fall with scale.
[1/5]Roofers install solar panels on the roof of renegade artists Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell's house in London, Britain, June 6, 2023. Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell raise funds to install solar panels on the rooftops of all the houses on their street. REUTERS/Anna Gordon Acquire Licensing Rights
The solar panels are being installed by Octopus Energy, which says it is doing the work at cost rather than at any profit, to help raise awareness of the need for adaption to renewable energy, which is carbon-free but is intermittent, meaning it can causes problems for the grid.
"It's not just a UK problem. This is a global problem: how we move to renewables. Big changes need to happen," Rebecca Dibb-Simkin, chief product officer at Octopus Energy, said.
"Communities are kind of almost forcing the hand of grids … This is people coming together and saying we want power in this way."
Britain's energy regulator Ofgem said last month it was launching a policy review to speed up the connection of low-carbon energy schemes to the electricity transmission grid.
Edelstyn and Powell said they want their street to inspire others, not just to bring down bills and reduce carbon emissions, but to help drive community action, which in Britain has lost momentum.
Community projects growth slowed to 2.4% in 2022, after doubling in size each year between 2014 and 2017, according to advocacy group Community Energy England.
"We just want people to be able to access the finance that they need if they want to try and retrofit their house and decarbonise their street, and we want it to be simple and straightforward," Edelstyn said.
($1 = 0.7879 pounds)
Writing by Sachin Ravikumar; editing by Barbara Lewis
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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